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12 people killed as soldiers clash with Abu Sayyaf group in Sulu

May 25, 2013 1:30pm
At least 12 people were killed, including  seven Marines and five Abu Sayyaf bandits, while nine other soldiers were wounded in a fierce firefight at a remote village in Patikul town in Sulu Saturday morning, a military spokesman said.

Armed Forces spokesman Brig. Gen. Domingo Tutaan said the soldiers from the 2nd Marine Brigade were on tracking operations when they caught up with a large group of Abu Sayyaf terrorists at about 6:45 a.m. in Tugas village.

The firefight had lasted for over an hour before the bandits fled, Tutaan said, adding that pursuit operations are ongoing.

“The soldiers were on tracking operations against those involved in recent kidnapping incidents in Sulu, when the firefight in Barangay Tugas occurred…. It was a long firefight. Unfortunately, seven personnel were killed in action and nine were slightly wounded,” said Tutaan.

“On the side of the Abu Sayyaf, five were reported killed and some were wounded based on reports I got. The pursuit operations are ongoing right now… As we speak, the fighting has stopped and we are on pursuit operations,” he added.

Tutaan was uncertain as to the number of the bandits the soldiers encountered, but he said "it was a large group," which the military believed responsible for recent Sulu kidnapping incidents, in which a wife of a Marine soldier was among the victims.

But he said the bloody clash on Saturday does not mean the Abu Sayyaf is still a force to contend with. “Timing  is a big factor…. I think it was a frontal encounter.”

Latest military estimate placed the strength of the Abu Sayyaf to about 300, mostly based in Sulu and in Basilan.

The group is behind a number of high-profile attacks, including bombings and kidnappings in Sulu.

Moreover, Tutaan said AFP Western Mindanao Command chief Lt. Gen. Rey Ardo and 2nd Marine Brigade commander Col. Jose Johnriel Cenabre are on top of the ongoing security operations against the group.

Founded using seed money from the al Qaeda international terrorist network in the 1990s, the Abu Sayyaf is blamed for the worst terror attacks in the country, including the firebombing of a ferry in Manila Bay and abductions of foreign tourists.

The group is on the US government's list of so-called foreign terrorist organizations.

About 600 US troops have been rotating through the southern Philippines for a decade to help train local troops in hunting the Abu Sayyaf, who enjoy local support at their bases in some of the poorest areas of the Philippines. — with a report from Agence France-Presse/ LBG, GMA News
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