ZAMBOANGA CITY - An Army official died while five others were wounded following a nine-hour gun battle against suspected members of bandit group Abu Sayyaf in Sumisip, Basilan on Thursday.
Captain Clinton Capio, the commanding officer of 1st Special Forces Company in Basilan, sustained a lone gun shot wound to his head during a clash with the bandits, led by Nurhassan Jamiri and Furuji Indama.
Basilan Governor Jim Salimman said the encounter started past 7 a.m. in one of the strongholds of the bandit group.
Major Filemon Tan, spokesperson of Western Mindanao Command, said five other soldiers and members of Citizen Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) were also wounded in the fierce firefight which ended past 4 p.m. Thursday.
All wounded soldiers and militiamen were brought to Camp Navarro General Hospital in Zamboanga City.
Tan said two bandits were killed during the clash. However, their bodies were not recovered.
Salimman said government troops were conducting offensive operations against the bandits when the clash occurred.
He said the government has been been planning to establish a permanent military camp in Sumisip to prevent the Abu Sayaff Group from coming back.
Two military battalions were deployed to Sumisip to hunt down the bandits, who have been actively participating in a string of kidnappings in the southern Philippines with the help of their comrades based in Sulu province.
The governor said efforts are underway to convince members of the bandit group to lay down their arms.
There were also a number of active Abu Sayyaf members and sub-commanders who have expressed their interest in surrendering to the government, Salimman claimed.
Last year, at least 20 members of the Abu Sayyaf Group turned themselves in to the government after they were offered a better life and future by local officials and military officials.