A member of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) was killed while two Indonesian hostages were rescued following a clash with military troops in Sulu on Sunday (December 22), the Department of National Defense confirmed in a report.
Elements of the 4th Marine Battalion engaged the militants in a 25-minute gun battle in Barangay Pugad, Panamao at 4:43am, then again at 6:27am in a separate encounter.
The slain ASG militant was identified as Hairula Itum alias “Mamahand”. Along with his body, the soldiers recovered several firearms as well, including one M16, one M203, and one Gunner rig with ammunition.
The operation also led to the rescue of Maharudin Bin Lunani and Samiun Bin Maneu, two of the three Indonesian fishermen, who were kidnapped in the seawaters off Lahad Datu, Sabah on September 23, 2019. Their third companion, Muhammad Farhan, remains in the custody of the ASG.
“We have reinforced our troops and have cordoned off the area, so we are optimistic that we can rescue Farhan,” said Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, commander of Western Mindanao Command.
“This is part of our relentless effort to rescue the remaining captives and defeat the Abu Sayyaf before the end of the year,” Lt. General Sobejana added.
Meanwhile, a soldier died and another incurred wounds during said clashes.
“We commiserate with the bereaved families of our soldier, who paid the ultimate sacrifice for peace to thrive in Sulu. His gallantry will continue to inspire us to accomplish more for the common good,” said Lt. Gen. Sobejana.
Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesperson, Marine Brigadier General Edgard Arevalo in a statement lauded the rescue as a holiday blessing for the Indonesian captives’ families.
He also assured assistance for the fallen soldier’s surviving family and vowed to honor his sacrifice.
Arevalo added a word of warning to the Islamic terrorist group.
“If the terrorist ASG thinks we have operations holiday, they are terribly mistaken! We will not stop hunting them down until we have neutralized them and freed the victims they detain for money,” he said.
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