15 soldiers killed in clash with Abus

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FALLEN Soldiers carry caskets containing the remains of their colleagues killed in an encounter with the Muslim extremist Abu Sayyaf group, into a C-130 cargo plane at Jolo airport in Sulu province on Tuesday. Abu Sayyaf fighters killed 15 soldiers as they were carrying out President Rodrigo Duterte’s order to wipe out the terrorist and kidnapping group. AFP PHOTO

FALLEN Soldiers carry caskets containing the remains of their colleagues killed in an encounter with the Muslim extremist Abu Sayyaf group, into a C-130 cargo plane at Jolo airport in Sulu province on Tuesday. Abu Sayyaf fighters killed 15 soldiers as they were carrying out President Rodrigo Duterte’s order to wipe out the terrorist and kidnapping group. AFP PHOTO

FIFTEEN soldiers, including an officer, were killed while 12 others were wounded in a fierce firefight with more than 120 heavily armed Abu Sayyaf members in Patikul, Sulu late Monday afternoon.

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The military clashed with the terrorist and kidnapping group at 4:30 p.m. in Sitio Kan Jalul, Barangay Maligay in Patikul town, Brig. Gen. Arnel de la Vega, commander of the Joint Task Force Sulu, said in a report to Gen. Ricardo Visaya, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff.

De la Vega said the composite team of soldiers from the Philippine Army’s 35th and 21st Infantry Battalions was conducting combat operations when it engaged the Abu Sayyaf.

The firefight lasted for an hour and a half.

The slain soldiers were identified as 2nd Lt. Ernan Gusto, 33; Staff Sergeants Ruel Catubay, 39 and Jay Erwin Almohallas, 38; Corporals Omar Raddulan, 41, Ronald Galoniga, 33, Elid Ismael, 49 and Salik Mandangan, 31; Privates First Class Nestor Bacaling, 26, Jison Falcasantos, 28, Gerald Yubal, 29, Dhendo Dujo, 32, Roselito Arnoco, 29, Glend Resma, 24 and Rogelio Vincoy, 28; and Private Jonas Lumayan, 23.

The military withheld the names of the 12 wounded soldiers, saying it had yet to notify their next of kin.
The AFP Western Mindanao Command said about two dozen militants were killed in the clash, but troops recovered only 10 cadavers.

One of them was the body of Mohammad Said alias Amah Maas, an Abu Sayyaf sub-leader blamed for the beheading of Canadian hostages John Ridsdel and Robert Hall earlier this year after their families failed to raise P600 million in ransom.

Troops operating in the area immediately rushed to the encounter site to pursue the terrorists. Other Army units provided blocking forces, the AFP said.

In a statement, Visaya said the “ultimate sacrifice and acts of gallantry” became the soldiers’ “driving force” to attack the Abu Sayyaf, who lost 25 members to Army-initiated armed encounters last week on orders of President Rodrigo Duterte.

“There may still be casualties along the way as we advance this solemn duty to eradicate these bandits and terrorists of 25 years, but we will not stop until we rid our country of the menace this [Abu Sayyaf Group] brings to the world,” he said.

Visaya told the soldiers to keep the pressure on the enemy until they wear out.

Aside from the various military units in Sulu, the Philippine Navy was deployed to the island province to make sure no one escapes and no reinforcements arrive for the terrorists.

President Duterte ordered security forces to destroy the Abu Sayyaf following the beheading of Filipino hostage Patrick James Almodovar on August 24. Almodovar’s family failed to pay P1 million in ransom demanded by the bandits.

2,500 troops to Sulu
In Malacañang, presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said five battalions or 2,500 troops will be sent to reinforce the military in Sulu.

“The President is focused on making sure that the threat from the Abu Sayyaf Group will be terminated as soon as possible,” he said in a news conference.

Abella, however, clarified that Duterte did not set a timeline for defeating the Abu Sayyaf.
“It should not be an extended engagement,” he said.

Not familiar with terrain?
The soldiers were said to have been unfamiliar with the terrain of Patikul, a lair of the Abu Sayyaf who are still holding nearly two dozen Malaysian and Indonesian hostages.

There was no word on the fate of the hostages, including Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad, who was kidnapped last year at Samal Island in Davao del Norte along with Ridsdel and Hall.

Duterte had said negotiators paid P50 million to the Abu Sayyaf for the release of Sekkingstad, but the terrorists demanded P250 million more. He did not say where the ransom money came from.

Over a hundred Abu Sayyaf gunmen have been battling security forces since last week in Patikul and Talipao towns.

‘No conscience’
Falcasantos, one of the slain military men, was reportedly beheaded by the Abu Sayyaf, who even sent a mobile phone message to the soldier’s family in Zamboanga City.

The bandits told the relatives, using Falcasantos’ phone, that they chopped off the head of the infantryman. A militant said: “Your son is dead. His head is gone, we cut it off yesterday.”

Falcasantos’ family replied: “You have no conscience.”

But the unidentified Abu Sayyaf member went on to say: “Of course. We don’t have conscience because they (soldiers) came to our place. I’ll also cut your head off.”

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18 Comments

  1. Your wrong our soldier is ready for war long time ago.. It only happen that the terrorist there has the support of the community. remember they use they ransom money to buy gun and feed the community to gain trust and support of every villager. Its the failure of the local government to provide basic services to their constituent to prevent them from joining the terrorist.

  2. The military plan this article makes me envision really irritates me when I see young men being killed and their murders mocked by beheadings. First of all, the military needs to go into each and every mosque seizing the Imam as well as all information identifying his followers, names, addresses, and families. Then go house to house – because these people are not congregated like an army. Round them up, every man woman and child. Gather intelligence as to “who” is missing from the families, as well as where their camps are. With respect to the entire area, surround it with military. No one goes in and no one goes out. Going out into the jungle – pincer formations – one front on – two arching around every area that is being checked, with air support ready to be deployed. And, the Philippines has enough helicopters.

  3. Alicia M. Advincula on

    The terrain where they are hiding should be cleared by burning or poisoning. This was done in Vietnam to locate enemies. We need to sacrifice the total destruction of the forests so that these bandits will have nowhere to hide.

  4. noli valdellon on

    Survivors said the Abu Sayyaf controlled the high ground and the soldiers were pinned down in a ravine. These generals are using the troops as canon fodders. For the umpteenth time, where are the backup choppers? For sure, these copters couldn’t be lower than any highest hillock in that area.

  5. It’s been 5 administrations that started from Fidel Ramos, these Abu Sayyaf terrorist group has been one of the biggest security threat and National shame to our country! From less than 50 idiots they rose to hundreds and became strong enough to make things difficult for the AFP. Once and for all, please end this lunatics hiding from their religious name but barbaric ways.

  6. No matter how highly trained our soldiers, when doing an offensive operation, always expect casualties. Government soldiers are fighting against time as well, because of the hostages, meaning, they did not have the luxury to send a Recon Patrol, a small team to gather intelligence information such as terrain, possible location of the enemy, approximate number of enemy and any information that may help them during offensive. The enemy are in defensive position and it is easy for them to set up sniper positions and ambush zones.

    I would say the government troops are doing an excellent job, have minimized the casualty count, and if they are going to continue with their mission, to search and destroy, AFP will succeed. The reason why AFP will succeed is because of the logistical support, such as food, ammunitions, weapons, and replenishment of personnel are readily available. If I were the ground commander of the government troops, I will continue to move on, continue the offensive operation and will not give the enemy a chance to regroup and resupply. I will give instructions to my soldiers NOT to take any prisoners, but to kill or mutilate them all. Just kill them all, show no mercy, and let God sort them out later. This should bring a lasting peace in Mindanao, and the soldiers will be called sons of God. Go ahead, reintroduce Christianity in Sulu and Marawi, and if AFP is successful with this mission, in eradicating ASG, PDU30 should give some uncultivated, undeveloped lands to the NPA’s, so they have something to do, instead of extorting money and goods in rural areas. Let JoMa Sison move to Sulu so he would be more safer and build a hut in an area where he can enjoy the ocean view, before he dies of old age.

  7. Ignacio Balbutin on

    Why so many casualties? Was there any tipped off? I observed that the names of the casualties were muslim names. It would be better if the soldiers sent to fight the abu sayyaf would be men from Luzon without any muslim background. Muslims are blood brothers and no matter what their affiliation when it comes to their brother they are always willing to help. Brother’s blood always runs thicker. The military should carpet bomb the place before sending the infantry lead by tanks and armored carriers

    • are you questioning the credibility of our muslim soldier? they’re dying there protecting every filipino people notwithstanding the religion. you can accompany them during the conduct of operation so you can see with your own two eyes how they fight these muslim terrorist

  8. Do not stop now. It is now or never situation. Need to crush this group NOW. No more excuses. This has been the scourge of the past admin. Now they are still here, this group is getting bolder every year of their existence. Send our best of the best warriors.

  9. Aware of the operational capabilities of the Philippine Army, I am at a quandary at the number of casualties inflicted on the government side. For an operational area the size of Paticul in a relatively small island like Jolo, the movement of any large contingent of government forces would be very noticeable. It would be best if Scout Rangers or Special Forces elements would be the lead spearheading force backed by infantry units.

    We are confronted with a more determined and highly trained rebel forces with equally mobile arms capable of inflicting heavy destruction. That force cannot be countered by mere half-hearted trainees in sheer size and quantity. They must be confronted head-on by equally determined highly trained experienced troopers that are fully combat equipped. Besides, let us avoid all this uneccessary pre-announcements of supposed military operations. Then we have that element of surprise!

    • Ignacio Balbutin on

      There are christian militias who are the mortal enemy of the muslims, they should be used also for intelligence and scouting purposes because they are from that place

    • Patikul is part of the main island of sulu that area is the home court of the abu sayyaf every villager there is either their relatives or loyal supporters. the Light Reaction Regiment, Special Forces and Scout Rangers of our SOCOM is already deployed in Sulu and Basilan. The encounter last week that lead to the death of 21 terrorist has been initiated by the Scout Rangers.

    • Your wrong our soldier is ready for war long time ago.. It only happen that the terrorist there has the support of the community. remember they use they ransom money to buy gun and feed the community to gain trust and support of every villager. Every time they move the villager will tip off the terrorist.