GOVERNMENT troops killed two members of the terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in a firefight in Indanan, Sulu on Sunday, reports reaching Camp Aguinaldo said.
One of the slain bandits was recovered by security forces, while the other was seen by troops being carried away by ASG members.
Troops seized an M-16 rifle, an M-203 grenade launcher and an improvised explosive.
The military said the firefight started around 6:45 a.m. after residents informed authorities of the presence of armed men in Indanan town.
A team from the Philippine Army’s 11th Scout Ranger Company was sent to the area and engaged at least eight bandits, killing two of them after a brief firefight.
“Acting on information from local residents about the presence of armed men, elite troops from the 11th Scout Ranger Company immediately sent a patrol and engaged the bandit group of about eight men at 6:45 a.m. in a brief firefight before the ASG scampered away,” said Brig. Gen. Arnel de la Vega, commander of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Joint Task Force Sulu.
The military official said the killing of the two bandits brought to 38 the total number of ASG members slain since intensified combat operations were launched in July. Scores of ASG members have also been wounded.
On the government side, 15 soldiers have been killed while 28 others have been wounded in action since July.
Authorities believe the ASG has splintered into small groups to evade soldiers, and have been planting improvised explosives to delay movements of government troops.
De la Vega condemned the use of improvised explosives by the ASG, saying these “maim and kill individuals regardless of whether they are soldiers or civilians, and the main losers are the innocent people in the community.”
“The use of [improvised explosives]is not only against the law, it is also outright evil and un-Islamic,” he added.
In Patikul, Sulu, eight soldiers were wounded when troops from the Army’s 21st Infantry Battalion led by Lt. Col. Presco Lobos encountered some 100 ASG members in Barangay Panglayahan at 12:44 p.m.
As of Sunday afternoon, the firefight was still ongoing, said Maj. Felimon Tan, spokesman of the AFP Western Mindanao Command.
Authorities have directed all adjacent operating units to block the possible routes of enemy withdrawal.
The military pounded the ASG members’ position with an initial four 105mm rounds of ammunition. MG-520 attack helicopters provided close air support.