ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines – At least seven soldiers and four Abu Sayyaf militants were killed while five other government troopers were wounded in fierce fighting in the mountains of Sumisip town in Basilan yesterday morning, the military said.
Lt. Col. Randolf Cabangbang, spokesman of the Armed Forces’ Western Mindanao Command, said several militants were also wounded in the encounter in Upper Cabengbeng, Sumisip town.
Col. Arthur Ang, commander of the Army’s 104th Infantry Brigade, said the fighting was still ongoing as of press time.
According to Cabangbang, the government troops were pursuing an armed group that had harassed a military detachment last Wednesday when they encountered at least 50 heavily armed men led by Wyms Wakil alias Bacoy.
He said the fierce fighting left seven men of the 4th Scout Ranger Company dead and five others wounded.
At least four militants were confirmed killed, but authorities believe the Abu Sayyaf had more casualties. Cabangbang said the four slain bandits were identified through their aliases, while the names of the military casualties were not made available as their families have yet to be notified of the incident.
Cabangbang said Wakil was a former manager of the Tumahubong Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Integrated Development Cooperative who was sacked because of his links with the Abu Sayyaf.
He said Wakil has been blamed on the series of attacks on workers of the cooperative’s rubber plantation, which have left 16 dead and 34 wounded.
The clash has prompted the military to coordinate with the ceasefire panel of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front to avoid any mistaken encounter while soldiers pursue the militants, Cabangbang said. - By Roel Pareño