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Troops clash with Abu Sayyaf, Jemaah Islamiyah in Sulu

Patrolling government troops clashed with Abu Sayyaf bandits who were with three Malaysian Jemaah Islamiyah members in Sulu province Thursday morning, a military spokesman said.

The clash, which lasted for 15 minutes, resulted in “negative casualty on [government] side while undetermined on enemy side,” said Ensign Chester Ramos, spokesman of Joint Task Force Zambasulta.

“Traces of blood were seen along the enemy's route of withdrawal,” he said.

The clash occurred a month after a covert police operation in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, resulted in the killing of wanted Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan, a Jemaah Islamiyah operative linked to the deadly bombing in Bali, Indonesia, in 2002.

The operation, however, led to a firefight with Moro rebels in the area where over 60 people, including 44 policemen, were killed.

Ramos said Thursday's encounter occurred at 9:15 a.m. when operating troops of Joint Task Group SULU composed of 14 Scout Ranger Company chanced upon the bandit group at Barangay Tugas in Patikul, Sulu.

The Abu Sayyaf group was reportedly led by one Hatib Sawadjaan.

Ramos said they immediately coordinated with the Philippine National Police in Jolo “to conduct blocking and checkpoint along the Main Supply Route [in] all of Sulu in order to apprehend and intercept the enemy's withdrawal and extrication.”

“Moreover, PNP also prepared the necessary documents for the filing of appropriate charges against [the Abu Sayyaf group],” he added.

Ramos said the enemies withdrew toward Sitio Gabang, in Barangay Bakong, also in Patikul, Sulu. —KBK, GMA News