ZAMBOANGA CITY: Marines captured a jungle base of the militant Abu Sayyaf group following a fierce battle that left two soldiers wounded in Sulu, officials said on Thursday.
Marine Captain Maria Rowena Muyuela, a spokeswoman for the Western Mindanao Command, said troops recovered a huge cache of improvised explosives from the Abu Sayyaf base in Patikul town believed used by Radulan Sahiron, a senior leader of the group which is being linked by authorities to al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiya.
Quoting military reports, Muyuela said the militants were forced to flee—dragging their casualties—when more marine reinforcements arrived in Patikul, a known stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf.
Brigadier General Martin Pinto, commander of the 2nd Marine Brigade based in Sulu province, described the Abu Sayyaf camp as “well fortified.”
“The seized camp is fortified with connecting trenches, well–established firing positions and with hundreds of improvised explosive device emplaced in all approaches,” he said.
Pinto said the persistence of troops to capture the enemy base forced the heavily-armed Abu Sayyaf fighters to break into smaller groups and fled.
“Our troops had to breach the enemy’s defenses and squeeze themselves to the complex terrain to be able to get closer to the objective. Despite the Abu Sayyaf’s terrain advantage, the marines held their ground and returned fire as they inched their way to the camp, clearing several enemy satellite camps and the eventual capture of the Abu Sayyaf base,” Pinto said.
“The persistence of the troops to push forward forced the heavily-armed Abu Sayyaf militants to escape and scamper towards different directions, taking along with them undetermined number of casualties—their dead and wounded members— while on the government side, we only have two marines who suffered minor wounds from the battle,” he added.
Officials said there were no indications that Sahiron was among the dead or wounded in the fighting which began on June 30, but there were reports that the Abu Sayyaf had fled with some of their kidnapped victims. The operations were still continuing in the province.
It was unknown whether the hostages were foreigners or Filipinos. The Abu Sayyaf is still holding several foreigners and local hostages in Sulu, one of five provinces under the Muslim autonomous region. Most of the hostages were kidnapped in Sabah in Malaysia and Tawi-Tawi in southern Philippines and brought to Sulu.