At least three soldiers were killed while 13 others were wounded in a clash with around 50 Abu Sayyaf bandits in Patikul, Sulu early Friday morning.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines Western Mindanao Command said the firefight broke out between soldiers from the 5th Scout Ranger Battalion of the Philippine Army and the bandits in Sitio Atol in the village of Latih.
The military is still verifying information that a number of bandits were seriously wounded in the encounter.
Artillery support were immediately delivered to reinforce ground troops while other military units established blockades in some strategic areas that could be used as possible exit routes of the bandits.
MALAYSIAN KIDNAP VICTIM RESCUED
Meanwhile, a Malaysian national was shot and wounded by the bandits as government forces rescued him on Simisa Island, Banguingui in Sulu on Thursday afternoon.
Jari Bin Abdullah, a Malaysian fisherman who was abducted by armed men off Sabah last December 2018 with two Indonesian nationals, was immediately airlifted to Kuta Heneral Teodulfo Bautista Hospital in Jolo for medical treatment.
The military said the Philippine Marines Ready Force Sulu recovered Abdullah about 15 minutes after a fierce encounter with the bandits led by Najir Arik.
He was found near the bandit’s exit route. He was transferred to Camp Navarro General Hospital in Zamboanga City for further medical treatment.