SHARIFF AGUAK, Maguindanao: Government forces killed four Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) terrorists in separate encounters over the weekend and seized its camp in Sumisip, Basilan.
Capt. Jo-ann Petinglay, spokesman of the Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom), said troops of the 4th Special Forces Battalion under Lt. Col. Andrew Bacala Jr., encountered an undetermined number of ASG rebels at Sitio Talisay in Barangay Upper Bembengan last Saturday.
The group, surprised by the presence of government troops, tried to put up a fight resulting in a 30-minute gun battle but scampered away in different directions upon sensing the approaching planes of the Philippine Air Force.
The soldiers immediately pursued the fleeing bandits and blocked their possible escape route resulting in another exchange of fire that lasted for more than an hour.
“Our troops saw the enemy getting hit by our bullets but they were not able to retrieve bodies during the clearing operations,” said Col. Juvymax Uy, commander of the Joint Task Force Basilan.
A temporary encampment, that can accommodate about 40 people, was also seized by the special forces in the vicinity of Barangay Cabcaban in Sumisip.
Found in the encampment were a 15-meter long plastic pipe and a fuse believed to be used for making an improvised explosive device (IED).
In the continuing pursuit operations, troops of the 18th Infantry Battalion under Lt. Col. Ricardo Lucero Jr., encountered Abu Sayyaf members believed to be the same group engaged by the special forces earlier. The clash occurred in Barangay Mahatang.
“The information we received from people in the village was precise that the bandits were hiding in that area that led to another engagement last night,” Uy said on Sunday.
“We also learned that four bandits who were wounded earlier died during the series of firefights,” he added.
Meanwhile, Basilan forces are still scouring the area while pursuit operations are continuing.
“We will continue to pound on the Abu Sayyaf. As long as they continue to pose a threat to the populace, we will be going after them and we will make sure that we will get them,” Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., WestMinCom commander, said.
“The information given by those who surrendered is indeed very helpful in our operations. We are therefore calling on the other Abu Sayyaf members to surrender before government forces get them. They have to decide now and fast before it is too late,” he added.