From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 18, 2020): 11 soldiers killed, 13 wounded in Sulu clash (By Teofilo Garcia, Jr.)
ZAMBOANGA CITY – Government troops from the Joint Task Force Sulu are pursuing the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) bandits following a clash that resulted in the death of 11 soldiers and wounding of 13 others in Sulu, a top military official said Saturday.
Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, commander of the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom), said the death of the soldiers will further motivate the military to eliminate the ASG bandits and make Sulu a peaceful place to live.
Sobejana said government troops are in pursuit of the bandits under ASG leaders Radullan Sahiron and Hatib Hadjan Sawadjaan, who figured in an hour-long firefight with the troops around 3:05 p.m. Friday in Sitio Bud Lubong, Barangay Danag, Patikul, Sulu.
Sobejana was unable to immediately release the identities of the slain and wounded soldiers except to say they belong to the Delta Company of the Army’s 21st Infantry Battalion. One of the fatalities is a junior officer.
Government troops were on combat operation when they clashed with around 40 ASG bandits led by Sahiron and Sawadjaan, he said, adding the bandits fled toward northeast direction upon sensing the arrival of reinforcements.
He said the bandits carted away seven R4 rifles, including one with attached 40-mm grenade launcher, a light machine gun, and a handheld radio transceiver.
The bandits are believed to have suffered casualties as the mortar teams of the Army’s 21st Infantry Battalion and of the 5th Scout Ranger Battalion pounded them with 81-mm mortar rounds while they were fleeing.
“With the determination to ensure the safety and security of the community against the ASG, 11 soldiers paid the ultimate sacrifice in an hour-long ferocious gunfight with the terrorist group in Sulu today, April 17,” the Westmincom said in a statement after the clash.
“Medical treatment was promptly provided to the 13 injured soldiers. Combat troops inflicted enemy casualties based on the bloodstains found in the encounter site,” Westmincom said.
Sobejana said the Sulu-based Abu Sayyaf bandits are still holding captives five Indonesian fishermen, who were kidnapped on January 16 off Lahad Datu, Sabah, Malaysia.
PNP mourns soldiers' deaths
Meanwhile, the Philippine National Police (PNP) mourned the death of 11 soldiers who were killed in an encounter with the ASG members.
"The officers, men, and women of the Philippine National Police, under the command of Police General Archie Francisco F. Gamboa, join the Filipino nation in mourning over the loss of 11 of our brothers in arms in the Armed Forces of the Philippines who offered the ultimate sacrifice in an encounter with terrorists in Sulu yesterday, " PNP spokesperson Bernard Banac said in a statement on Saturday.
"They did not die in vain. The cause they are fighting for is the life-long commitment of all men and women in uniform who derive inspiration from the heroism of our fallen brothers to bring on the fight against the enemies of the state," he added.
Banac said the PNP will extend "every possible support and assistance we can give to bring comfort to the orphaned families of our fallen heroes and to provide care for the wounded."