DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 18 Nov) — Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Carlito Galvez on Sunday conferred the wounded personnel medals on 24 soldiers wounded in action during an encounter with the Abu Sayyaf on Friday where five of their comrades were killed.
Five soldiers were killed while 23 others were injured, including an officer, in an encounter with “more or less 50” Abu Sayyaf members under Almujer Yadah, in Barangay Laing, Patikul, Sulu at around 4:10 p.m. Friday, the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) said in a press release Saturday evening.
On Sunday night, a press release from Westmincom updated the number to 24 as it cited yet another encounter with some 20 Abu Sayyaf members at 5:20 p.m. on Saturday in Barangay Latih, also in Patikul town.
Battle casualties were rushed to the Kuta Heneral Bautista Station Hospital for immediate medical attention and proper disposition of the slain soldiers.
Fifteen of the 23 wounded soldiers wounded on Friday were airlifted Saturday morning to Zamboanga City for further medical attention.
Lt. Gen. Arnel B. Dela Vega, commander of of the Western Mindanao Command said they are “deeply saddened by the demise of our five gallant soldiers.
“Rest assured we will provide all sorts of assistance to the bereaved families and to our wounded soldiers,” he said.
Galvez conferred the medals during his visit to the headquarters of Joint Task Force Sulu in Jolo, Sulu and at the Camp Navarro General Hospital in Zamboanga City.
“Our soldiers really fought and sacrificed their own lives just to attain peace in Jolo,” the press release quoted him as saying.
Galvez said financial assistance was also given the wounded personnel “to boost their morale and of course to see to it that our soldiers are being taken care of properly.” The Westmincom did not say how much the soldiers were given.
The press release cited information from the community that the Friday and Saturday clashes “caused the death of almost 10 Abu Sayyaf members.”
The ongoing military operations of the Joint Task Force, it said, are aimed at rescuing the remaining kidnap victims in the hands of the Abu Sayyaf “before the year ends.”
As of Sunday, the Westmincom said, the remaining kidnap victims include four Filipinos, one Vietnamese and one Dutch national.
“In pursuit of peace we are gaining headway but Sulu,” Galvez admitted, “has been a bigger challenge for us that we have to solve.” (MindaNews)