At least 15 soldiers were reported died in a series of encounters with Abu Sayaff in Sulu on Monday. Four members of the ASG were also killed. The clash happened around 4:30 p.m. at Sitio Kan Jalul, Brgy. Maligay in Patikul, Sulu.
According to reports, the death of 15 soldiers were confirmed by Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesperson on Tuesday. Among those reported dead is an army officer.
Col. Ed Arevalo, chief of the AFP Public Affairs Office said in a statement that a team from the Philippine Army’s 35th Infantry Battalion and 21st Infantry Battalion fought around 120 members of the Abu Sayyaf.
Apart from the 15 soldiers who died on the Abu Sayaff encounter, 10 soldiers were also wounded.
Despite having a number of fallen soldiers, AFP chose to withheld their names because their families have to be notified first. Whereas, the exact number of casualties on the Abu Sayaff side is still unknown.
According to reports, initial numbers of fallen soldiers were put at 12, quoting Maj. Filemon Tan, spokesman for the military’s Western Mindanao Command. At that moment, two Abu Sayyaf fighters were killed and an undetermined number were “severely” wounded, among them ASG sub-leader Jamiri Jawong Jauhari, Arevalo said.
Based on reports, the encounter broke out at 1:50 p.m. and lasted for half an hour at Sitio Kugan, Brgy. Bakong, Patikul. Government troops led by Lt. Col. Presco Lobos did not suffer any casualty as it battled against around 30 ASG members.
At around 3:42 p.m., army troops led by Lt. Col. Samuel Manzano killed two Abu Sayyaf bandits, forcing them to withdraw after a 30-minute clash in Brgy. Kuttong, in Talipao. Two soldiers were wounded. Sporadic skirmishes continue as of Tuesday morning, Arevalo said.
Arevalo further said that while soldiers grieve for their slain comrades, they just became more determined to fight the ASG.
“That the ultimate sacrifice and acts of gallantry become their driving force to hit back once again on the terrorists,” the AFP said in a statement.
AFP spokesman BGen. Restituto Padilla said on reports that there were already that 27 members of the Abu Sayyaf have been killed in heightened military operations since Friday.
AFP Chief Lt. Gen. Ricardo Visaya also said that they will not stop until the ASG are eradicated.
“There may still be casualties along the way as we advance this solemn duty to eradicate these bandits and terrorists of 25 years, but we will not stop until we rid our country of the menace this ASG brings to the world,” Visaya said.
In lieu of the 15 soldiers fallen in the Abu Sayaff encounter, AFP Chief Lt. Gen. Ricardo Visaya said that Philippine flags in military camps are flown at half-mast today to mourn the soldiers’ deaths.