8 dead, 25 hurt in Philip­pine troops’ clash with Abu Sayyaf

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL -

Philip­pine troops, backed by attack he­li­copters and ar­tillery fire, bat­tled with at least 250 Abu Sayyaf mil­i­tants Thurs­day in the coun­try’s restive south, leav­ing two sol­diers and six mil­i­tants dead, the mil­i­tary said.

The heavy fight­ing in Sulu prov­ince’s Patikul town­ship wounded 10 rebels and 15 sol­diers, in­clud­ing two army cap­tains, mil­i­tary spokesman Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc said.

Spo­radic fight­ing con­tin­ued hours af­ter the first close-quar­ter fire­fight in the morn­ing, and rebels were seen car­ry­ing away at least six dead, he added.

The Abu Sayyaf, a loose group­ing of about 400 mostly poor ru­ral fighters, has turned to kid­nap­pings for ran­som, extortion and other crimes to sur­vive years of battle set­backs dealt by U.S. mil­i­tary-backed Philip­pine of­fen­sives.

It was not im­me­di­ately clear why there was a large con­cen­tra­tion of Abu Sayyaf mem­bers un­der com­man­der Radu­lan Sa- hiron and sub-lead­ers Hair­ula As­bang and Hatib Sawad­jaan in Patikul’s Gata vil­lage, but Cabunoc said the group may have in­cluded rel­a­tives of mil­i­tants.

He said the rebels, num­ber­ing 250 to 300, “could be plan­ning a huge-scale attack or they are at­tend­ing a gath­er­ing, like (a) wed­ding.”

The mil­i­tary launched the op­er­a­tion af­ter re­ceiv­ing a re­port that a large group of Abu Sayyaf men were roam­ing the area, de­scribed as Sah­i­ron’s tra­di­tional ter­ri­tory.

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