World Bulletin / News Desk
The Philippines’ military confirmed Sunday that 18 soldiers were killed and 53 others injured in a 10-hour battle with ISIL-linked Abu Sayyaf militants in a troubled southern island province.
Filemon Tan Jr., Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom) spokesperson, said the fighting in Baguindan village in Basilan also killed five militants, including a Moroccan national identified as Mohammad Khattab and a son of Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, who carries a $5-million bounty on his head.
He told reporters that soldiers of Joint Task Force Group Basilan were conducting operations when they encountered around 120 Abu Sayyaf members and “intense firefight ensued… that lasted for almost ten hours.”
Another 20 militants were reportedly wounded, including sub-leader Radzmil Janatul, alias "Kubayb".
"Military operations continue as the bandits withdrew and splintered into smaller groups," Tan added.
Soldiers who sustained injuries were taken to an air base hospital in Zamboanga City, where the bodies of the slain were also transported for proper burial.
Lt. Gen. Mayoralgo dela Cruz, WestMinCom commander, applauded his troops for fighting “gallantly” despite “enemy resistance” and the militants’ advantage due to familiarity with the terrain in Basilan.
"We salute our troops as they displayed the finest traditions of soldiery and bravely fought the bandits with utmost valor," he said. "We are truly better for their sacrifice and we will take inspiration from their exemplary service."
Hapilon is wanted by the Philippine and United States governments on kidnapping and bombing charges, and was indicted in Washington for "terrorist acts against U.S. nationals and other foreign nationals."
Last year, he appeared in a video posted on YouTube in which he and his men swear allegiance to ISIL.
Since 1991, the Abu Sayyaf -- armed with mostly improvised explosive devices, mortars and automatic rifles -- has carried out bombings, kidnappings, assassinations and extortion in a self-determined fight for an independent Islamic province in the Philippines.
It is notorious for beheading victims after ransoms have failed to be paid for their release.Last Mod: 10 Nisan 2016, 09:21