MANILA - Government troops are still searching for the bodies of Abu Sayyaf Group members they killed in a gunbattle in Sulu Sea on Tuesday.
The Naval Task Group-Sulu 2.0 said in a statement they are still conducting retrieval operations, after security forces exchanged gunfire with 7 Islamic State-linked bandits near Sulare island, leading to the Abu Sayyaf members' deaths and the sinking of their speedboat.
According to NTG-Sulu 2.0 commander Philip Edward Lamug, they divided the site of the gunfight into quadrants so that all areas would be covered by the search party. He said they have been waiting for the corpses of the Abu Sayyaf members to resurface.
"We are hoping na umangat na 'yung mga bangkay. Probably 2-4 days pa. Sobrang lalim kasi ng dagat kaya hindi safe na i-dive ng tropa. Kung hindi man lumutang sa dagat sana mapadpad sa shoreline," Lamug said.
Residents of the towns of Parang and Bato-Bato, which are near the site of the gunfight, are doing their part by conducting their own patrols at the shoreline.
"The search area is very vast, around 220 square kilometers, therefore the help of civilians is very much appreciated. Investigation is also ongoing and it is probable that the ASG kidnappers were wearing heavy bandoleers and that's why they're stuck at the ocean floor," said Maj. Gen William Gonzales, commander of Joint Task Force Sulu.
Security forces earlier retrieved the sunken speedboat and recovered several weapons.
The Abu Sayyaf members were reportedly under Mundi Sawadjaan and Radullan Sahiron, Western Mindanao Command chief Lt. Gen. Corleto Vinluan, Jr. said in a statement earlier.
Sawadjaan is the alleged mastermind of the twin bombings in Jolo town last August that killed 17 people, including two suspected suicide bombers, and injured over 70 others.