DAVAO CITY: At least 30 Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) rebels and Philippine Army soldiers were either killed or wounded in fierce clashes between the two groups on Wednesday in Sulu province in the southern Philippines, according to officials.
Marine Capt. Maria Rowena Muyuela, a spokesperson for the Western Mindanao Command, on Wednesday said the fighting erupted in the village of Tanum in Patikul town, a known stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf Group, which has links to global terror networks such as al-Qaeda.
Muyuela added that more than a dozen members of the Special Forces and Scout Rangers fought fiercely with some 300 bandits under Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan and killed five gunmen while wounding 14 others.
Two soldiers were also killed and nine more wounded on the government side in the clashes, she said.
According to her, military helicopters and ground artillery fire supported the soldiers in their operation against the bandit group.
“The operation is a joint effort of the military and police and local government in Sulu to seize lawless elements responsible in the series of kidnappings and other atrocities in the province and adjacent areas,” Muyuela told The Manila Times.
The names of soldiers killed in the battle were withheld pending notification of their families.
Military and police authorities have blamed the Abu Sayyaf for the spate of violence and terrorism in the autonomous region in the South.