7 soldiers wounded in clash with Sayyaf

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ZAMBOANGA CITY: At least seven soldiers were reportedly wounded in fresh fierce clashes between government troops and members of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) late Friday night in a remote village in Patikul, Sulu, a military official said Saturday.

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Major Filemon Tan, the spokesman for the military’s Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom), told defense reporters that the fresh fighting erupted in Batungan village in Patikul town in Sulu, one of five provinces under the restive Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, where troops were tracking down members of the notorious jihadist group.

Major Tan identified the wounded soldiers as Sergeant Rodguer Bilbao, Corporals Dennis Buela, Jonathan Natividad, and Philip Jaravilla, and Privates First Class Michael Galduen, Netlie Tangonan and Allan Guingayan.

They were immediately airlifted to Camp Navaro Hospital in Calarian, Zamboanga for medical treatment.

Tan said that the fighting broke out after elements of Joint Task Group Sulu and 2nd Marine Company were scouring the mountainous area of Barangay Batungan when they encountered the ASG.

The firefight lasted for several minutes after which the bandits fled towards an unknown direction bringing with them their wounded comrades.

Tan said the Abu Sayyaf that were encountered by their troops were led by ASG sub leader Hairullah Asbang.

Records show that the bandits are still holding over two dozen hostages including 14 Indonesians, 4 Malaysians and 4 others they abducted in Samal Island composed of two Canadians, one Norwegian and a Filipina.

The group has demanded ransoms for their hostages and threatened to execute some of the captives if their governments fail to pay.

Government troops are conducting an ongoing search and rescue operation to save the hostages, while authorities are also investigating the recent clash in Patikul.

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