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Heavy fighting leaves over ten Abu Sayyaf dead in Sulu


Government troops clashed with Abu Sayyaf group over the weekend, leaving more than ten terrorists dead, the military's Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom) said Tuesday.

Maj. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., WestMincom chief, confirmed that heavy skirmishes broke out between troops from the Joint Task Force Sulu and Abu Sayyaf militants in Talipao town as rescue operations for kidnap victims continued.

Galvez said soldiers had been acting on intelligence, searching for a number of Vietnamese hostages held by the terror group when a firefight broke out in Barangay Upper Laus.

According to him, after the clearing operation, field reports from the ground disclosed that the Abu Sayyaf suffered heavy casualties as they were seen dragging and carrying their slain and wounded colleagues.

"Bloodstains were also seen in the areas where the bandits [had been] positioned during the encounter," he added.

The military said Abu Sayyaf, which has pledged allegiance to Daesh or ISIS, is still holding a number of nationals of Indonesia, Vietnam, The Netherlands, and Filipinos.

In a propaganda video posed on social media, Daesh declared Basilan-based Abu Sayyaf top leader Isnilon Hapilon as its head in Southeast Asia and “emir” of the militant group in the Philippines.

Hapilon fled to Lanao province in Central Mindanao to join the Maute group and establish an ISIS wilayat or province. However, he was reported to have been seriously injured in military airstrikes launched by the military against the local terror group in Butig town.

On Monday, President Rodrigo Duterte said he hopes that Hapilon is dead.

Duterte said he ordered the bombing of Hapilon's house two months ago and they have not heard from the terrorist leader.

"So I suppose, maybe he is really dead. He has not surfaced," said Duterte in a televised speech on April 3, during a Boy Scouts of the Philippines event at Malacañang.

"But that is their style, they will disappear and then suddenly resurface, but I hope we got him," the president added.

Hapilon was indicted in Washington for his involvement in the 2001 kidnapping of three Americans in the Philippines, and has a $5-million bounty on his head from the US government.

Meanwhile, the military said Tuesday it has yet to get confirmation on the supposed death of Hapilon.

"There are raw reports but we still have no confirmation that Hapilon is really dead,” AFP chief of staff Gen. Eduardo Año told reporters at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City, Metro Manila

“Our last information on him was sometime in February and he was being carried by four ASG members transferring from one temporary base to another in the hinterlands of Butig,” Año said.

Military operations against Hapilon’s group continue in provinces of Lanao and Basilan." Hader Glang

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