ZAMBOANGA CITY: Abu Sayyaf gunmen killed six Philippine Army soldiers and wounded four others in an ambush in the town of Sumisip, Basilan.
Officials said the soldiers were pursuing a band of militants when gunmen – mostly supporters and relatives of Abu Sayyaf fighters – ambushed them on Wednesday in Upper Cabengbeng village in Sumisip, the hometown of Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Gov. Mujiv Hataman.
“As they edged toward the circumferential road, operating troops were met with heavy fire by lawless elements believed to be relatives and sympathizers of the Abu Sayyaf bandits,” said Col. Juvymax Uy, commander of the anti-terror Joint Task Force Basilan.
He added that two of the Sayyaf leaders involved in the fighting have been identified as Siar Alhamsirol and Parong Tedi who escaped the military operation.
The heavy fighting, according to Uy, lasted for over four hours and needed Philippine Air Force bombers to support the ground troops battling the militants.
The clashes were so intense that the Army had to deploy the 64th and 68th Infantry Battalions to augment members of the 18th Battalion fighting the bandits.
The Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom) on Thursday said the bodies of the slain soldiers were handed over to their families while the wounded soldiers are now in a military hospital here where they are being treated for gunshot wounds.
“We are sad to report the death of six of your soldiers during the encounter yesterday [Wednesday] in Basilan,” said Lt. Gen, Carlito Galvez Jr., WestMinCom chief.
He added that military operations against the Abu Sayyaf and itssupport groups are continuing in Basilan, just several nautical miles south of Zamboanga City.
“As we mourn, combat operations against the bandits will be intensified with our intelligence operations and sustained campaign to defeat the remaining terrorists. Rest assured that this will not stop us from crushing the enemies of the state,” Galvez said.
Both Galvez and Hataman previously announced victory against the Abu Sayyaf and the surrender of many of its fighters in Sumisip and other parts of Basilan, claiming that the government is winning the war against terrorism in the province.