MANILA – The death toll in the clashes between government soldiers and Abu Sayyaf bandits is now at 26, the military said.
Captain Ryan Lacuesta, Civil Military Operations Officer of the 2nd Marine Brigade, said 25 Abu Sayyaf bandits and one Marine soldier were killed in the heavy exchange of fire and grenade in Patikul, Sulu.
The clashes erupted on Tuesday, a day after the Marines seized an Abu Sayyaf stronghold.
Lacuesta said 20 of the slain Abu Sayyaf members have been identified.
The military said the gunfight erupted after the Abu Sayyaf bandits, led by Radulan Sahiron alias Commander Putol, attempted to regain control of the area which had served as a stronghold for the group.
Brig. Gen. Martin Pinto, commander of the 2nd Marine Brigade and Joint Task Force Sulu, said the seized camp was important to Abu Sayyaf because it was being used by the group as a detention area for its kidnap victims and training site for new recruits.
Lacuesta said the military will build its camp on the seized Abu Sayyaf haven, in an attempt to finally contain the group which is blamed for the series of attacks and kidnappings in the south.
The Abu Sayyaf, considered a terrorist group by the United States, was funded using seed money from Al-Qaeda in the 1990s. – with a report from Edwin Sevidal, dzMM