Philippines: 3 Abu Sayyaf killed, 15 injured in fighting

Philippines: 3 Abu Sayyaf killed, 15 injured in fighting
# 29 August 2015 02:05 (UTC +04:00)

Baku-APA. Fighting erupted between government troops and Al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf members in the jungles of Sulu early Friday morning, leaving at least three bandits dead and more than a dozen injured including ten Marines, APA reports quoting Anadolu Agency.

Brig. General Alan Arrojado, the joint military task force commander in Sulu province - one of two Abu Sayyaf strongholds - said in a statement that marines joining other government troops in the hunt for the Al-Qaeda linked group encountered some 300 gunmen near Mt. Awak in the village of Latih, Patikul town around 6 a.m. (22.00GMT Thursday).

"Troops encountered about 300 followers from the combined groups of at least five Abu Sayyaf leaders," Arrojado said.

He said troops shelled their positions with 81mm mortars during an hour-long gunbattle.

A military report from Western Mindanao Command based in Zamboanga City said the Abu Sayyaf group that clashed with the marines were led by Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan, Muamar Askali, Almuktar Suddung, Namiel Ahajari, Basaron Arok, all followers of sub-commander Yasser Igasan.

Citing military intelligence sources, Arrojado identified the slain Abu Sayyaf bandits as Umaili Jarmaani alias "Nidil," Aljimar Barin and Ardam Muhajili - all natives of Patikul.

Two of the five wounded Abu Sayyaf bandits were identified as Sueb and Anas.

“At least 10 Marines were wounded during the encounter,” Arrojado said. “They were airlifted to a military hospital in Zamboanga City using two Hueys [helicopters]. All of them are in stable condition."

According to Arrojado, the troops had reported sighting four members of Jemaah Islamiyah during the clashes.

The U.S. State Department’s Country Reports on Terrorism 2014 lists Al-Qaeda’s Southeast Asia-affiliate Jemaah Islamiyah alongside the Abu Sayyaf and the armed wing of the Communist Party of thePhilippines - the New People's Army -- as among the “Foreign Terrorist Organizations” operating in thePhilippines.

The wounded Marines have been evacuated to a Sulu hospital for treatment.

Friday's encounter came eight days after government troops attacked an Abu Sayyaf camp triggering a fierce firefight during which two hostages -- both coast guard personnel -- managed to escape.

The two men were kidnapped along with a village leader in Zamboanga del Norte province in May. They were taken to an Abu Sayyaf camp in Sulu and later shown blindfolded in a video with a knife held to the neck of one of them.

Military reports have said that the village leader was beheaded a few days prior to the Aug. 19 clash, in which around 20 militants were killed.

At least nine other hostages, including two Malaysians, are believed to be held in the same area.

A Dutch bird watcher kidnapped nearly three years ago is also believed to be held in Sulu by another Abu Sayyaf faction.

Since 1991, the Abu Sayyaf -- armed with mostly improvised explosive devices, mortars and automatic rifles -- has carried out bombings, kidnappings, assassinations and extortions in a self-determined fight for an independent Islamic province in the Philippines.

It is notorious for beheading victims after ransoms have failed to be paid for their release.

The group gained notoriety in the late 1990s and early 2000s for a daring raid on a resort on the Malaysian oceanic island of Sipadan, from where it snatched 20 tourists, mostly Europeans.