From The Gulf Today (Aug 11): 5 Abu Sayyaf men, 2 soldiers killed in Mindanao
Five members of the Abu Sayyaf terror group linked to the Marawi City siege and two soldiers were killed in a fresh outbreak of clashes on the island province of Sulu in Mindanao, the military reported on Thursday.
Brigadier General Cirilito Sobejano, the Task Force Sulu chief, said a team of the elite Marines were on security patrol when they clashed with 30 terrorists in a remote village in the town of Kalingala on Thursday morning.
Sobejano said the encounter was the latest with the terrorists who were confirmed to have participated in the siege of Marawi City on May 23 that prompted President Rodrigo “Rody” Duterte to impose martial law over the whole of troubled Mindanao.
The Abu Sayyaf has gained notoriety through a spate of kidnap-for-ransom cases that were often marred by the beheading of their foreign and Filipino hostages.
The Abu Sayyaf and the Maute Group that pledged allegiance to the Daesh extremists in the Middle East have been blamed for the Marawi siege that is now on its third month.
The military has confirmed that Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon has been actively involved in the battle for Marawi following a reported Daesh order for him to establish a caliphate in the city.
On Wednesday, Captain Jo-Ann Petinglay, the spokesman of the military’s Western Mindanao Command, said the battle for Marawi has entered its final and critical phase, with the battle zone now confined to just a square kilometre of the city.
But Petinglay admitted that government forces were facing a “suicidal enemy” who now numbered only about 70 heavily-armed terrorists in the last stages of the campaign.
Petinglay also reported that that the presence of from 50 to 70 civilian hostages has been compounding the problem as soldiers have to battle their way from one building to another in Marawi’s central business district.
“The situation,” Petingly said, “is getting more critical. As our soldiers advance and get closer to the main objective, anything can happen.”
She added: “As of Tuesday night, it is with grief that we report 122 soldiers were already killed due to the continuous fighting in the main battle area.”
On the other hand, the soldiers killed 539 terrorists and recovered 607 high-powered firearms with the civilian casualty at 45 and 1,728 non-combatants rescued.