From InterAksyon (Nov 15): Running tally, so far: AFP - 11 dead, 27 wounded; ASG - 9 killed, 3 wounded
The casualty scorecard from the recent armed encounters between the military and the al Qaeda-linked militant Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) have climbed, so far, to a total of 20 dead and 30 wounded after local officials in Basilan declared all-out war against the ASG with military and police support.
On the scorecard, based on official reports from the military since November 2, a total of 11 soldiers have been killed, so far, with 27 others wounded in clashes with ASG, which, in turn, suffered nine killed and three wounded.
After the deadly ambush in Basilan that killed six soldiers, including their company commander 2nd Lt. Jun Corpuz, who was a member of "Siklab Diwa" Class of 2014 of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA), and the wounding of another soldier, Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Governor Mujiv Hataman declared the all-out assault operation.
The soldiers of Foxtrot Company of the 64th Infantry Battalion were waylaid by more than 20 Abu Sayyaf fighters suspected to be led by Radzmi Jannatul.
Hataman's declaration was supported by mayors in Basilan.
But, even prior to Hataman and the mayors' declaration of all-out war against the ASG, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. had ordered ground troops in Sulu to "produce results" following the release of two German hostages by the ASG amid allegations of a P250-million ransom payoff.
But, local leaders in Sulu, unlike their counterparts in Basilan, did not go as far as declaring a similar "all-out" effort against the ASG which Catapang even had to issue an apology to them because of not coordinating to the Crisis Management Committee (CMC) about the release of the German captives.
But on Friday, troops belonging to the 1st Scout Ranger Company led by 1st Lt. Michael Asistores engaged suspected elements of the ASG in what was described as a "heavy" firefight lasting almost five hours in Talipao, Sulu.
Air support was provided using an MD-520 MG attack helicopter against the estimated 300-man enemy force by three sub-commanders identified as Radullan Sahiron, Hatib Sawadjaan and Julie Ekit.
That clash left five soldiers dead and 26 others wounded, according to Capt. Ma. Rowena Muyuela, public affairs chief of the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom). The ASG, in turn, suffered nine killed and three wounded.
Muyuela, however, decline to divulge the identities of the casualties, as not all of their families have been duly informed.
"However, we've already identified one of the bandits killed, as alias Benhur. We also have the aliases of the wounded bandits, namely, Abun, Sali and Almujahid," Muyuela said.
Muyuela said additional fresh troops were inserted in the combat area to reinforce the pursuit operations against the enemy that splintered into several groups.
Earlier, Joint Task Force Sulu commander Col. Allan Arrojado said that elite forces made contact with the group of Sahiron at around 1:50 p.m.
The military is claiming that the ASG is down to a combined force of 400 remnants from a peak of up to 1,200 in the early 2000s.
Yet, the ASG continues to wreck havoc in Basilan and Sulu, including Zamboanga City, where a police operative from the Explosive and Ordnance Division (EOD) was wounded in an explosion recently.
The police said the perpetrators were followers of Basilan-based ASG sub-leader Furuji Indama.
General Catapang is expected to provide updates on the much publicized thorough investigation that he has promised the families of the slain soldiers and victims of ASG kidnappings.
At present, there are still at least 10 hostages, including three foreigners, remaining in the hands of the ASG in Sulu.