World Bulletin / News Desk
On Friday, a military officer who asked not to be identified as he is not authorized to speak to media, told Anadolu Agency that MG20 attack helicopters had pounded Bohe Buug settlement in Tipo Tipo on Basilan island on Thursday, with rockets hitting Abu Sayyaf dugouts killing 10 fighters and destroying a 50-caliber machine gun.
The number is reported to be in addition to the deaths of 15 more Abu Sayyaf, whose deaths in the mountains of Tipo-Tipo the military were announced in a statement early Thursday.
Previous reports have said that 22 militants had been killed in Sulu province and 18 in Basilan, although the military has been hesitant to release an overall death toll.
Both provinces are in the Sulu Archipelago and part of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
The airstrike comes as a government military offensive continues into a second week, focusing on three Abu Sayyaf groups of Furuji Indama, Isnilon Hapilon and a sub leader named Ubaib.
The officer said Thursday's airstrike was carried out by the 15th Strike Wing targeting Ubaib and 37 fully-armed followers.
After fleeing the area, Ubaib's group later merged with the groups of Hapilon and Indama with in another jungle covered terrain of Basilan island, the officer added.
He claimed that both Indama and Hapilon's groups were being aided by relatives of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) fighters, and some civilians eager to join the fight against government forces.
Tipo-Tipo is also the site of an MILF camp. The MILF is currently involved in a peace process with the government, although a final agreement is yet to be put in place as it was shelved for the country’s presidential elections.
Since 1991, the Abu Sayyaf group -- armed with mostly improvised explosive devices, mortars and automatic rifles -- has carried out bombings, kidnappings, assassinations and extortions in a self-determined fight for an independent province in the Philippines.
Earlier this year, the group beheaded two Canadian hostages after ransoms failed to be paid. It has threatened to decapitate a Norwegian captured with them in September if a P300-million ($6 million) ransom demand is not met.
Two militant groups in the Philippines troubled south – the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and the Abu Sayyaf -- have pledged allegiance to ISIL, prompting fears during the stalling of the peace process between the government and the MILF that ISIL could make inroads in a region torn by decades of armed conflict.