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7 Abu Sayyaf members killed in clash with Philippine marines

By AL JACINTO | The Manila Times, Philippines | Published: December 15, 2018

ZAMBOANGA CITY (Tribune News Service) — Seven members of the Abu Sayyaf, including a sub-leader, were killed in ferocious battle between Philippine marines and the terrorist group Abu Sayyaf on the southern island of Minis, officials said on Saturday.

Ten other people surrendered to soldiers, according to Rear Admiral Rene Medina, commander of the Naval Forces Western Mindanao.

The fighting, which took place on Thursday, also left a soldier dead and three others wounded.

The Western Mindanao Command earlier said three Abu Sayyaf members were slain in the battle after troops clashed with about 50 terorists on the island off Sulu's Patikul town.

Medina said members of the 62nd Marine Company under Col. Armel Tolato responded to intelligence reports received from the military's Joint Task Force Sulu on the presence of the Islamic State-inspired terrorist group in the area.

He added that several vessels and a helicopter provided sea blockade and aerial support to ground troops, including elite members of the Special Operations Platoon 1 and a SEAL team.

"Sea denial is now being enforced by the Fleet-Marine team over the sea waters of Minis island to avoid escape and enemy reinforcement while Navsou (Naval Special Operations Unit) and Marsou (Marines Special Operations Unit) hunt down the Abu Sayyaf in the mangrove area of the island," Medina said.

"The neutralization of the Abu Sayyaf was a result of the commitment and continued monitoring activity of the government troops in Western Mindanao. The public is assured that the Armed Forces of the Philippines, particularly the Fleet-Marine troops will continue to exercise vigilance in Zambasulta (Zamboanga Peninsula, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi provinces)area to preempt any activities brought by the Abu Sayyaf Group and other lawless terrorist groups that threatens the peace, stability and development in the area," he added.

Lt. Gen. Arnel de la Vega, the regional military commander, said he ordered security forces to intensify offensives against the pro-Islamic State group, which is holding several foreigners and Filipinos kidnapped in the South and in Sabah, Malaysia.

"The Joint Task Force Sulu continues to intensify the conduct of offensives against the Abu Sayyaf to neutralize the bandits. All measures are now being undertaken in accordance with the rules of engagement, and with the support of the local government and the populace," he added.

De la Vega said they were saddened by the loss of a brave soldier. "We are deeply saddened by the news that another gallant soldier was killed during the encounter of our troops with the Abu Sayyaf bandits. Rest assured that we will extend all sorts of assistance to the bereaved family."

There were no reports if any of the hostages had been spotted on the island.

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