Eleven soldiers were killed while 14 other servicemen were wounded following an encounter between government troops and alleged members of the Abu Sayyaf Group in Patikul, Sulu on Friday afternoon.
Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesman Brigadier General Edgard Arevalo spoke with GMA News Online and confirmed the casualty count.
“Eleven ang killed in action, 14 ang wounded,” Arevalo said in a phone interview. "It's an encounter with members of the Abu Sayyaf in Patikul."
He said the number of casualties on the Abu Sayyaf’s side was still undetermined.
According to the Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom), the firefight between soldiers of the 21st Infantry Battalion and around 40 Abu Sayyaf gunmen erupted at 3:05 p.m. in Barangay Danag.
Government forces lost some R4 rifles, a K3 squad automatic weapon, one R4 with attached 40mm grenade launcher, and a handheld Harris radio during the encounter.
Arevalo said this was their third encounter with the gunmen as the military has been conducting pursuit operations against the local terrorist group in the previous days.
He noted that soldiers were still executing anti-terrorism operations despite being tapped to assist in the fight against coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
"Nandoon sila, in their effort to protect the people of Sulu, nagkaroon tayo... pursuit operations na 'to no, two days in a row... Naengkuwentro natin sila, sa unang sagupaan, may report tayo na tatlo 'yung namatay sa kalaban... then mayroon tayong second encounter," Arevalo said.
Meanwhile, AFP chief General Felimon Santos Jr. condoled with the bereaved families of the fallen soldiers, noting that all assistance would be extended to their families.
Additionally, flags in all military camps around the country would be flown at half-mast in honor of the 11 Army soldiers, including an officer, slain in the Sulu encounter.
WestMinCom commander Lieutenant General Cirilito Sobejana said that the hot pursuit operation against the Abu Sayyaf was continuing. — DVM, GMA News