MANILA (2nd UPDATE) – Eleven members of the Abu Sayyaf group (ASG) were killed and others wounded in an encounter with government forces Friday, amid intensified military operations in Patikul, Sulu.
Among those killed was ASG sub-leader Mohammad Said, also known as Ama Maas, who had five standing warrants of arrest for murder, said Western Mindanao Command (WESMINCOM) spokesperson Major Filemon Tan Jr.
Said was involved in the abduction of several hostages in Samal, which included Maritess Flor and Norwegian Kjartan Sikkengstad.
The military said that on the government side, 17 soldiers of Joint Task Group Sulu (JTGS) were wounded in the encounter with more or less 100 ASG members in Sitio Makaita, Barangay Bunkaong, Patikul, Sulu, which started at around 5:30 a.m. Friday.
After a firefight that lasted for approximately 45 minutes, the remaining ASG members withdrew.
Severely wounded soldiers were transported to Zamboanga City for further medication. Some soldiers who were only slightly wounded opted to stay after treatment in Sulu to continue pursuit operations.
President Rodrigo Duterte earlier ordered the military to "destroy" the ASG, which he labeled "terrorists."
"Our troops are extremely motivated, they know that this fight against terrorism is greater than themselves…By all means that’s what we are doing and we will not stop until it’s done," said Lieutenant General Mayoralgo Dela Cruz, WESMINCOM commander.
According to the JTGS, the armed men belonged to a group led by senior ASG leader Radulan Sahiron.
With reports from RJ Rosalado and Jewel Reyes, ABS-CBN News