ZAMBOANGA CITY: Special Forces operatives captured two Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) fighters after a clash before dawn Friday in Sulu.
Capt. Jo-ann Petinglay, military spokesman, said members of the 2nd Special Forces Battalion (2SFBn) engaged in a skirmish with a band of militants in Barangay Lagasan Higad in Patikul that began shortly before 2 a.m. and lasted for about an hour resulting in the capture of Nadsfar Abdulla and Delson Kansiong.
The two were followers of ASG commander Idang Susukan, but it was unclear whether the notorious leader was with the gunmen. Both Abdulla and Kansiong are now being interrogated.
“Abdulla and Kansiong are currently in the custody of the 2SFBn for initial debriefing while they are coordinating with the police for proper legal procedures,” Petinglay said.
Brig. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, commander of the anti-terror Joint Task Force Sulu said that there was no report of military casualties and that operations against the Abu Sayyaf were continuing in the area.
“As we speak, troops continue to scour the area to pin down the beleaguered bandits and prevent them from exiting the area,” Sobejana said.
At least 50 Abu Sayyaf had been captured so far since early this year in military operations in Sulu.
Aussie ships arrive
The intense fighting coincided with the arrival of two Australian Navy ships – HMAS Larrakia and Maitland – in Zamboanga City, about 79 nautical miles from Sulu, for anti-terrorism and piracy campaign exercises.
Rear Admiral Rene Medina led local military commanders in welcoming the Australian sailors accompanied by Australian Ambassador Amanda Gorely and Defense Attaché, Capt. Bradley Ian White.
The Combined Philippine Navy-Royal Australian Navy Maritime Security Engagement in the region will run until December 1.
The exercise involves four Philippine Navy ships – BRP Dioscoro Papa, General Mariano Alvarez, Davao Del Sur and Emilio Liwanag – all under Naval Task Force 61.
“Aside from enhancing the maritime cooperation with other regional navies, the training activity with Royal Australian Navy to secure the vast maritime domain of the Sulu Sea proves that the Philippine Navy particularly the Naval Forces Western Mindanao does not work alone in protecting and maintaining peace and order and stability in its area of responsibility. This upholds the strong relationship of the Philippine and Australian navies when it comes to maritime patrol and security,” Medina said.
Australia has supported Manila’s anti-terrorism efforts and played a key role in defeating local Islamic State and ASG bandits in the siege of Marawi City.