Seven Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) bandits were killed in a clash at sea as government troops thwarted another kidnapping attempt by the ASG, military officials said late on Tuesday.
Lt. Gen. Corleto Vinluan Jr., commander of the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom), said Tuesday’s predawn firefight near Sulare Island in Parang town, Sulu province, ensued after the Army’s Special Forces aboard a helicopter gunship and a multi-purpose attack craft (MPAC) intercepted a twin-engine speed boat with seven ASG bandits aboard.
“Our troops conducted air and sea interdiction targeting members of the ASG/kidnap-for-ransom group under (ASG leaders) Mundi Sawadjaan and Radullan Sahiron. Exchanges of fires transpired, which lasted for 25 minutes and resulted in the sinking of the boat utilized by more or less seven ASG members,” Vinluan said.
Vinluan did not say who and where the ASG bandits were set to abduct anew except to say that “they were planning to conduct kidnapping activities in mainland Mindanao”.
Lt. Col. Alaric Avelino Delos Santos said the troops received reliable information about the planned kidnapping.
“They were monitored, when they left the island (of Sulare), the troops followed them, and a firefight ensued,” Delos Santos said, adding Sulare Island serves as a staging point of the ASG in the conduct of kidnapping.
When the ASG abducted the five Indonesian fishermen in the Philippine border with Malaysia, Delos Santos said the hostages were taken first to Sulare Island before they were herded to mainland Sulu.
Maj. Gen. William Gonzales, commander of the Joint Task Force Sulu, said two of the seven slain ASG bandits were identified as Madsmar Sawadjaan and Mannul Sawadjaan.
Gonzales said Madsmar was the brother of ASG leader and infamous bomber Mundi Sawadjaan, while Mannul was designated to replace the slain ASG senior leader Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan, as emir of the bandit group.
He said the other five slain ASG bandits are yet to be identified.
“Search and retrieval operations are currently being conducted utilizing our air and naval assets in the area of engagement,” Gonzales said.
The ASG bandits are still holding captive four of the five Indonesian fishermen they seized on January 16, this year, in the waters between Tambisan and Kuala Meruap, Lahad Datu, Sabah, close to the Philippine sea border.
Government troops recovered the remains of one of the five Indonesians while pursuing a group of Abu Sayyaf bandits on September 29 this year in Barangay Maligay in Patikul, Sulu. PNA