ZAMBOANGA CITY: Abu Sayyaf bandits killed a Philippine Army soldier and wounded two others in a firefight in Patikul, Sulu as government forces were pursuing the abductors of a government engineer snatched by armed men on Wednesday.
The Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom) did not report the fighting but security sources said the encounter happened in Barangay Tugas in Patikul.
The troops were searching for Enrico Nee, an engineer of the Department of Public Works and Highways in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, when gunmen attacked them, triggering a fierce firefight.
There were no reported casualties on the enemy side.
Nee, was abducted on February 14 while waiting for a ride near his home in Barangay San Raymundo in Jolo. The gunmen reportedly dragged him to their get-away vehicle and sped off.
Nee’s fate remains unknown, but the abduction happened despite the military’s pronouncement that the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) is now on the run because of the government, relentless pursuit of the notorious rebel group linked to the Islamic State.
It was unclear how the bandits managed to sneak into the capital town where policemen and soldiers were supposed to be on alert as the region is under extended martial rule.
The abduction came several days after troops killed four ASG bandits in a clash in Panamao town where seven soldiers were also wounded. Members of the Marine Battalion Landing Team 3 fought with some 30 gunmen under Abu Sayyaf commanders Sansibar Bensio and Hatib Munap Binda in Mount Bawis.
The soldiers were sent to the area over intelligence reports that several Abu Sayyaf hostages had been spotted there.
Fight with NPA
Meanwhile, in Osmeña, Zamboanga del Sur, another soldier and a New People’s Army (NPA) rebel were killed as firefight erupted between troops and a group of communist insurgents on Sunday.
Major Ronald Suscano, spokesman for the 1st Infantry Division (1ID), said soldiers from the 53rd Infantry Battalion led by 1st Lt. Abner Pilando engaged the communist rebels in a running gun battle in Barangay San Isidro.
He said troops were responding to reports that rebels were harassing villagers when they ran into a band of NPA gunmen; a 15-minute firefight ensued.
He added that the soldiers recovered the body of the slain rebel, whose identity remains unknown.
Major General Roseller Murillo, 1ID commander, said the operation against the rebels will continue without let-up. “Our soldier died a hero while protecting our people and our communities. We will vigorously pursue these NPA terrorists until they will be left with no choice but surrender or get killed.”