|File photo from PhilStar|
Brig. Gen. Arnel dela Vega, Joint Task Force Sulu (JTSF) commander, said that none among the troops that encountered the bandits were casualties.
Three militants were killed by the combined troops form the Army and its elite Scout Rangers when they launched an attack on Barangay Laith, an Abu Sayyaf stronghold, on Saturday.
The troops chased more than a hundred Abu Sayyaf gunmen who managed to escape after the clash in Barangay Bungkaong on Friday.
The encounter on Friday killed 11 militants, including Abu Sayyaf sub-leader Moahmma Salid who was wanted for murder.
Based on reports from retrieving the bodies of the dead militants, eight other bandits were confirmed dead. According to Dela Vega, the soldiers were also able to discover high-powered assault rifles and an M203 grenade launcher from the dead rebels.
Reports also say that two hostages were freed by the troops while another one was freed by the bandits during the military ops.
However, there are still no reports regarding the location of Norwegian Kjartan Sikkenstad who was held captive by the Abu Sayyaf. Among the other hostages are Indonesian sailors and Duth birdwatcher Ewold Horn.
The two other captives taken with Sekkingstad were beheaded earlier this year. They were taken from Samal Island, along with another hostage Maritress Flor. Flor was released in July.
The order to obliterate the bandits was given by President Duterte after the group beheaded James Patrick Almodovar on July 16, outside his home in Jolo.
They beheaded Almodovar after the P1-million ransom was not met Wednesday afternoon.
“My order to the police and to the armed forces: seek them out in their lairs and destroy them,” Duterte said. According to him, there would come “a day of reckoning” with the rebel group.
Aside from the 5,000 troops already based in Sulu and 2,500 in Basilan, troops from Visayas, Luzon, and other areas of Mindanao were also pulled out and deployed to the two island provinces for the mission.
The president had warned that terror groups such as Abu Sayyaf would remain to be the biggest threat to the security of the country even in the next decade. ASCS