At least 16 government soldiers were wounded in yet another encounter with Abu Sayyaf bandits in Sulu.
ABS-CBN sources say the wounded soldiers, who belong to the Army’s 32nd Infantry Battalion, clashed with the bandits past 9 a.m. today in Barangay Igasan in Patikul town.
The sources said the group of bandits could be led by Radullan Sahiron and Hatib Hadjan Sawadjaan.
Citing military commanders on the ground, Col. Benjamin Hao, Public Affairs Office chief of the the Philippine Army, said there are reports that the grandson of Sahiron, a minor, was part of the fight and was killed.
Other sources said at least 5 bandits were killed.
The gun battle was said to be still ongoing, as of writing. Enemy casualties have yet to be reported.
On Thursday, 11 soldiers were also wounded in an encounter with the Abu Sayyaf in Indanan, Sulu.
The military launched fresh offensives against the Abu Sayyaf following the beheading of Jurgen Kantner, 70, on Sunday.
The German was beheaded after the group’s demand for P30 million was not met.
Kantner, 70, was abducted from his yacht in waters off the southern Philippines in November with his female companion, Sabine Merz, was found dead on the vessel with a gunshot wound.
The Abu Sayyaf has been kidnapping foreigners and locals for decades and holding them for ransom in the southern jungles.
They are believed to still hold at least 19 foreigners and six Filipino hostages.
The group, formed from seed money provided by a relative of Al-Qaeda mastermind Osama bin Laden in the 1990s, also carried out the bombing of a ferry in Manila Bay in 2004 that claimed 116 lives in the country's deadliest terror attack.
Despite numerous military operations over the years, the Philippine government has failed to destroy the group.
The Abu Sayyaf benefits from the support of local communities, the lure of ransom money and even collusion with corrupt local officials. – with AFP