19 soldiers killed, 12 hurt after ambush by Abus in Sulu
MANILA, Philippines — (UPDATE 2) Ten soldiers were killed while 10 others were wounded after Philippine Army troops clashed with suspected Abu Sayyaf extremists in Sulu on Thursday afternoon, the Army commander in the island province said.
This brought to at least 19 the number of soldiers killed, and 12, the number of wounded, in engagements between the al Qaeda-linked extremists and government forces on Thursday.
At least one Abu Sayyaf rebel was killed in the encounter in Maimbung town, along with the reported son of an Abu Sayyaf commander, who was caught in the crossfire, said Army Colonel Mark Antonio Supnet, chief of the 104th Infantry Brigade.
The body of only one Abu Sayyaf fighter was recovered, but Supnet said “several others” were either killed or wounded based on reports from residents.
He said the Moro extremists were reportedly led by Abu Sayyaf commanders Albader Parad and Doctor Abu.
“It was an encounter, not an ambush,” Supnet said in a text message.
“These bandits are trying to outrun troops from the 33rd IB. The ASG [Abu Sayyaf] is not on the offensive,” he added.
Earlier, on Thursday morning, Abu Sayyaf members and rogue Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) rebels, ambushed troops from the 33rd Infantry Battalion who were on board a 6×6 truck in Maimbung town, leaving nine soldiers dead and two others wounded.
An Agence France-Presse report, quoting sources, said one of the two wounded soldiers expired at the hospital.
On Wednesday, one Army soldier was killed while five others were wounded in an encounter with joint Abu Sayaf and MNLF elements in Parang town, also in Sulu. Military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Bartolome Bacarro said four rebels were also killed in the encounter.
A day earlier, two Marines were wounded in an encounter with Abu Sayyaf extremists on Mt. Tubora in Indanan town.
The heavy casualties came even as the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) revived its Joint Task Force Thunder to defeat the Abu Sayyaf by 2010.
It also came a day after the new Defense Secretary, Gilberto Tedoro Jr., talked tough against terrorist groups, saying they would be “pursued relentlessly.”
The military is running after Abu Sayyaf leaders in Sulu, along with two Jemaah Islamiyah operatives who allegedly masterminded the 2002 Bali bombings, Umar Patek and Dulmatin.
In the neighboring island province of Basilan troops are hunting down over 130 suspects in the killing of 14 Marines in Al-Barkah town last July 10, which include Abu Sayyaf and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels.
Ten of the 14 slain Marines were beheaded and mutilated.
With a report from Agence France-Presse