7 dead, 27 wounded in new Sulu fighting

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews / 5 Apr) – Fresh fighting erupted in Sulu Friday morning, resulting in the killing of three soldiers and four militants. A total of 22 combatants from both sides were also wounded in the firefight in the municipality of Patikul.

Patikul, Sulu.

Lt. Col. Gerry Besana, spokesperson of the Armed Forces’ Western Mindanao Command, said government troops were pursuing Abu Sayyaf leader Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan, alleged mastermind of the Jan. 27 bombing of the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Cathedral in Jolo that left at least 20 dead and a hundred wounded.

Besana said Scout Rangers were dispatched to Sitio Atol, Barangay Latih in Patikul after information was verified that Sawadjaan and 80 of his men were in the village.

“Unfortunately the militants have prepared against this kind of incursion,” Besana said.

Three soldiers were killed immediately after the militants fired M203 rifle grenades at the advancing troops, he said.

Thirteen soldiers were also wounded in the fighting as the militants took advantage of the dense vegetation around the village, Besana added.

He described the battle as “close quarters with combatants only 50 to 80 meters apart.”

Besana said Army units fought hard to catch up with the Scout Rangers for reinforcement, firing 81mm mortars against the positions of the militants.

He said they have recovered four bodies of the militants and intercepts on the radio revealed that at least 14 members of Sawadjaan group were wounded.

The fighting came a day after Malaysian kidnap victim Jari Abdullah, 34, was shot by his captors during a firefight in Simisa Island in Sulu. (Froilan Gallardo / MindaNews)