By Aaron Recuenco
Intense fighting broke out in Sumisip town of Basilan between government troops and Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) bandits more than two weeks after the Marawi City siege ended, resulting in the death of six soldiers and the wounding of four other government troopers.
Lt. Gen Carlito Galvez, commanding general of the Western Mindanao Command (WesminCom), said the clash erupted during the operation of the elements of the 18th Infantry Battalion in Barangay Upper Cabengbeng in Sumisip town on Wednesday afternoon.
The official said the Army troopers were targeting the ASG under Siar Alhamsirol and Parong Ted.
“The beleaguered bandits, however, were reinforced by lawless elements who engaged the troops near the Batasan Circumferential Road in Sumisip,” said Galvez.
“As they edged towards the Circumferential Road, operating troops were met with heavy gunfire by lawless elements believed to be relatives and sympathizers of the Abu Sayyaf bandits,” said Col. Juvymax Uy, commander of the Joint Task Force Basilan.
The official said the Philippine Air Force had to provide air support to protect the ground troopers from the volume of fire from the gunmen.
The ground troopers were reinforced by troops from the 64th and 68th Infantry Battalions.
The entire clash lasted for more than four hours.
“There were undetermined number of casualties on the side of the Abu Sayyaf,” according to Galvez.
The official said that the four wounded soldiers were immediately taken to the hospital for treatment.