MANILA, Philippines – Members of the Marine Battalion Landing Team-11 were not expecting to face 70 heavily armed terrorists when they headed to the base of Abu Sayyaf commanders Radulan Sahiron and Isnilon Hapilon in Barangay Panglahayan, Patikul, Sulu on July 28, authorities said.
One military official, who declined to be named, said the soldiers were "set up."
He added that several residents came to the aid of the Abu Sayyaf.
Seven soldiers were killed while 26 others were wounded in the clash.
Despite the loss, military considers the unfortunate incident as a strategic victory.
Muslim religious leaders expressed dismay over the killing.
“Hindi ‘yun tama. ‘Yang ginagawa nila, to destroy the image of Islam. Masakit sa akin na parang hayop ang ginagawa nila,” said Abdulwakil Tanjilil, deputy mufti for Region 9 and Palawan.
The families of the 7 soldiers who were killed in a clash against a terrorist group Sulu province arrived in Zamboanga City Friday to claim the victims’ remains.
The aunt of 2nd Lieutenant Michael Baladad, one of the fatalities, expressed anger and sorrow when she saw the soldier’s body.
"Masakit, parang hindi tao ang mga gumawa. Grabe talaga,” said Ella Martinez, aunt of Baladad.
Baladad was one of the 2 government soldiers who were beheaded by Abu Sayyaf terrorists.
According to Navy spokesman Lt. Col. Omar Tonsay, the 2 soldiers suffered "severe hacking wounds."
The 7 soldiers are to be given a heroes welcome at the chapel of the Naval Forces Western Mindanao on Saturday, to be led by acting Navy chief Rear Adm. Orwen Cortez and Philippine Marines commandant Maj. Gen. Rustico Guerrero.
Six of the slain soldiers will be flown to Manila on Saturday depending on the availability of the Air Force’s C-130 transport plane.
One of the soldiers was a native of Zamboanga. -- Report from RJ Rosalado, ABS-CBN Zamboanga