GOVERNMENT forces launched artillery strikes on positions of the terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), killing 14 militants in the past three days since the beheading of a Canadian mining executive kidnapped in southern Philippines, according to reports reaching Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City on Thursday.
“The [Armed Forces of the Philippines] Western Mindanao Command received reports from the civilians in the area that an estimated 14 Abu Sayyaf bandits were killed as a result of bombardment from 105 howitzers for the past three days. The troops kept on pressing, that is why they were able to occupy the former places occupied by the Abu Sayyaf that resulted in the recovery of the torso [of the Canadian John Ridsdel],” said Col. Noel Detoyato, chief of the AFP Public Affairs Office.
But Detoyato admitted that the 14 dead reported are for further validation from other sources.
“What is important here is that operations are continuing and we are gaining headway and our troops are determined, we will just update again as reports come in,” he said.
There were no reported casualties on the government side, according to the official.
The artillery shelling was complemented by aerial assaults using MG-520 attack helicopters, OV-10 light attack aircrafts and Hueys.
Detoyato clarified that the artillery shelling started last Saturday or before the beheading of Ridsdel, 68, a former executive of international miner TV, on Monday.
The AFP official said that was also the time the AFP launched intensified operations against the terrorists.
Ridsdel was snatched in the resort island of Samal in Davao del Norte province on September 21 last year along with fellow Canadian Robert Hall, 50; Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad, 56; and his Filipina girlfriend, Maritess Flor.