4 Abu Sayyaf men dead in Sulu clash

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    FOUR members of the terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group and a soldier died while nine terrorists and soldiers were injured in a firefight in Patikul town in Sulu on Saturday afternoon.

    Troops from the Army’s 32nd Infantry Battalion and 12th Reconnaissance Company were on combat operation around 1:40 p.m. when they clashed with about 40 Abu Sayyaf men in Sitio Tambang in Barangay Kabbon Takas.

    The group is said to be under Abu Sayyaf leader Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan, tagged by military officials as the mastermind of three suicide bombings in Sulu this year.

    Lt. Col. Gerald Monfort, spokesman of Joint Task Force Sulu, said the 30-minute clash left four Abu Sayyaf men dead and five others injured based on information from residents.

    However, only one Abu Sayyaf body was recovered at the encounter site. Also found were an M16 rifle and personal belongings.

    Brig. Gen. Antonio Nafarrete, commander of 1101st Brigade, said bloodstains and pieces of human flesh found at the encounter site show “enormous casualties other than the cadaver recovered.”

    On the government side, one of the operating troops died while four others were injured. The injured were brought to Camp Bautista Station Hospital in Jolo town, also in Sulu.

    The military said operation was conducted based on information provided by the residents about the Abu Sayyaf presence in their community.

    Maj. Gen. Corleto Vinluan Jr., commander of the military’s Joint Task Force Sulu, said the Abu Sayyaf should surrender as its area of operation is getting smaller.

    “The ASG has no safe place here in Sulu as the peace-loving Tausugs are now very active in reporting their presence wherever they (Abu Sayyaf members) go… The ASG maneuver space is dwindling. Hence, they now have to surrender or be killed by our operating forces,” said Maj. Gen. Corleto Vinluan Jr., commander of the JTF Sulu.