In the ongoing operations against the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) bandits in Tipo-Tipo, Basilan, a total of 24 brigands have been been killed since April 9.
Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesperson Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla in a Tuesday briefing said the figures came from Western Mindanao Command head Lt. Gen. Mayoralgo Dela Cruz.
Padilla said that all slain bandits were identified by military and police units involved in the operations in Basilan.
He added that it was also possible that many of the 20 ASG earlier wounded in the fight had succumbed to their injuries, adding to the bandits death toll.
Included in the ASG toll was Moroccan terrorist Mohammad Khatttab, an improvised explosive device expert and supposedly a conduit of a "
Middle East international terrorist
The former's body was also recovered by ground units.
As this develops, ASG positions in Tipo-Tipo, Basilan were repeatedly shelled in an effort to soften the bandits and prevent them from resisting troops out to flush them.
"Artillery fire (is) meant to suppress possible resistance that may be on the ground in those areas," the AFP spokesperson said.
Earlier, both Padilla and Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said ASG leader Furuji Indama, who was among the 20 bandits critically wounded in the April 9 battle, was among the bandits who succumbed to their wounds.
But this was corrected as information received from the ground indicated that the bandit leader is still alive despite being critically wounded.
Padilla declined to comment on claims that members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front leaked details of the April 9 operations to the ASG while coordinating with the MILF, adding that he had no data on the matter.
Eighteen soldiers and 53 others were wounded in the more than nine-hour clash between military units and ASG bandits in Barangay Baguidan, Tipo-Tipo last April 9.
The encounter started 7:55 a.m. and lasted until 5: 30 p.m.
There was also an ASG attempt to behead two of the slain soldiers but these were prevented by covering fire of surviving troops, Padilla said.