From the Mindanao Examiner (Mar 16): Security forces hunt down Sayyafs in Sulu
Security forces continued Friday operation against the Abu Sayyaf which is still holding over a dozen mostly foreign hostages in the southern Filipino province of Sulu.
The hunt for the militants intensified following a series of clashes since Tuesday that killed an Abu Sayyaf fighter and left 5 soldiers wounded in the Muslim province. Pro-government militias also joined in the military operation in Patikul, a known stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf tied to the Islamic State.
Latest military reports said the hostages are being held captive by militants in the town’s hinterland where members of the Scout Rangers last spotted them on Tuesday.
Security officials said soldiers also recovered a body of slain Abu Sayyaf who was later identified by Patikul village official as that of Roger Samlahon, one of those involved in the spate of ransom kidnappings in the province.
On Thursday, the military dispatched a pair of attack helicopters to provide cover for ground troops are they pursued the militants who broke into smaller groups.
“We will give our soldiers the best of our assets as they continue to sustain the operations in pursuing the Abu Sayyaf group members who are still on the run as of this time while dragging along their kidnap victims. It is our priority to rescue the kidnap victims thus our soldiers are very careful in their movements and bombardments,” said Lieutenant General Carlito Galvez, chief of the Western Mindanao Command.
Captain Jay Maravillo, the commander of the 14th Scout Ranger Company, who was one of 5 soldiers who were injured in the clash in the village of Panglahayan in Patikul during an attempt to rescue the hostages was airlifted to Zamboanga City.
On his hospital bed, he said: “Nakita na namin ang kalaban nung tanghali subalit maingat na maingat kami sapagkat iniisip namin ang kalagayan ng mga hostages. Nung di na pwedeng lumapit pa at nasiguro namin na walang hostage na nakikita, nagkaron na agad ng putukan,” he said.
Troops were also hunting down Abu Sayyaf militants in Basilan province where several of the hostages were being held. There were no reports of clashes in Basilan.