TWO members of the Abu Sayyaf Group died while two Army soldiers were injured in a brief firefight in Patikul town in Sulu yesterday afternoon.
Maj. Arvin Encinas, spokesman of the AFP’s Western Mindanao Command (Wesmincom) based in Zamboanga City, said the soldiers were part of the troops tasked to rescue five Indonesians kidnapped by the Abu Sayyaf in Malaysia last month.
Encinas said the troops from the 15th Scout Ranger Company encountered about 40 Abu Sayyaf men in Barangay Bakong at around 1 p.m.
He said the Abu Sayyaf men were under Radullan Sahiron and sub-leader Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan.
Encinas could not immediately say if Sahiron and Sawadjaan were with the encountered group and if the group is holding the Indonesians.
The five Indonesians were seized by about six Abu Sayyaf men in Lahad Datu in Sabah, Malaysia on January 16 and later brought to Sulu. The victims’ three companions were spared from the kidnapping and they reported the incident to authorities.
Wesmincom commander Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana said government troops have been relentless in the conduct of operations in Patikul town for the rescue of the Indonesians and a physician abducted by the Abu Sayyaf on February 4 in Jolo, Sulu.
He also said the Indonesians are being kept in the general area of Patikul town in Sulu, along with the physician, Daniel Moreno.
Reports quoting Yusof Jikiri, a commander of the Moro National Liberation Front, said the Abu Sayyaf will ask a P30-million ransom for the Indonesians.
Sobejana said any payment will only lead to more kidnapping.
“We have to stick with our no ransom policy. That’s why we do not allow people doing negotiations for the payment of ransom. If we monitor such, we will take appropriate actions against these people,” he said.
Sobejana also said the military is verifying the information from Jikiri.
“We’ve been hearing that (information) but there is no validation on the ground.”