6 Marines killed, 9 wounded in Sulu clash

ZAMBOANGA CITY (MindaNews / 25 May) – Six Marines, including an officer, died while nine others were wounded in a clash with suspected Abu Sayyaf bandits Saturday morning in Sulu, a military official said.

Col. Rodrigo Gregorio, spokesman of the Armed Forces’ Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom), disclosed the firefight broke out around 6:40 a.m. Saturday in Barangay Tugas, Patikul town.

He said the clash broke out when the troops stumbled upon the suspected Abu Sayyaf bandits while conducting an operation to rescue kidnap victim Casilda Villarasa.

Villarasa, 41, who is a medical technologist at the Integrated Provincial Health Office (IPHO), was seized last May 18 by gunmen suspected to be Abu Sayyaf bandits while she and her nine-year-old daughter were on the way to the IPHO in Barangay Asturia, Jolo, Sulu.

Villarasa’s daughter, Valeria, managed to run away and escaped.

Her husband, Sgt. Faustino Villarasa, is a Marine.

Lt. Gen. Rey Ardo, WestMinCom chief, has ordered to relentlessly pursue the suspected Abu Sayyaf bandits, Gregorio said.

Four helicopter gunships, including two rocket-firing MG-520 choppers, were deployed to provide air support to the pursuing Marine troops, he added.

Meanwhile, he said the identities of the slain and wounded soldiers were not immediately available except that they belong to the 2nd Marine Brigade command.