July 21, 2018, 5:26 pm
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6 soldiers killed, 4 injured in fight with Abu Sayyaf

SIX Army soldiers were killed and four others were injured in a firefight with Abu Sayyaf members and lawless elements in Sumisip town in Basilan on Wednesday afternoon.

The military loss came nearly two weeks after AFP chief Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero vowed to end the remaining terrorist groups, including the Abu Sayyaf, when he assumed the top military post on October 26.

The fighting broke out around 12:41 p.m. in Barangay Upper Cabengbeng where troops the Army’s 18th Infantry Battalion conducted a “strike operation,” the military’s Western Mindanao Command said.

Wesmincom spokesperson Capt. Jo-ann Petinglay said the soldiers targeted an undetermined number of Abu Sayyaf men under one Siar Alhamsirol and one Parong Tedi.

Petinglay said the Abu Sayyaf men were later reinforced by “lawless elements” which engaged the troops near the Basilan Circumferential Road, also in Sumisip town.

 “As they (soldiers) edged towards the circumferential road, operating troops were met with heavy fire by lawless elements believed to be relatives and sympathizers of the Abu Sayyaf bandits,” said Joint Task Force Basilan commander Col. Juvymax Uy.

Petinglay said troops from the 64th and 68th infantry battalions reinforced the engaged troops. She added that Air Force assets provided close air support for the beleaguered soldiers.

Petinglay said an undetermined number of enemy were either killed or wounded in the fighting, which she said lasted for about four hours. Pursuit operations against the fleeing enemy are ongoing.

“We are sad to report the death of six of your soldiers during the encounter yesterday in Basilan,” said Wesmincom commander Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez.

“As we mourn, combat operations against the bandits will be intensified with our intelligence operations and sustained campaign to defeat the remaining terrorists. Rest assured that this will not stop us from crushing the enemies of the state,” added Galvez.

In his assumption speech, Guerrero said his priorities in the area of peace and security are clear – to “finish the remaining terrorist groups, neutralize the communist threat and support law enforcement agencies in efforts against lawless armed groups.”

By terrorist groups, Guerrero said he was referring to the Abu Sayyaf and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters which have pledged allegiance with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria a few years ago.

Guerrero turned his sights on the remaining terrorist groups and the communists after the termination of the combat operation against the Maute Group which laid a seige of Marawi City on May 23.

The combat operation against the Maute Group was terminated on October 23. The five-month conflict resulted in the death of over 900 Maute members, 165 soldiers and policemen and 47 civilians.
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