By Francis Wakefield
The commander of Joint Task Force (JTF) Sulu Sunday said that they were still confirming sketchy reports that about nine to 10 Abu Sayyaf militants were killed as a result of the aerial bombardment conducted by the Philippine Air Force (PAF) against the terrorist group in Patikul,.Sulu on Friday, March 8.
Brig. Gen. Divino Rey Pabayo said his team was having a hard time confirming the total number of fatalities and casualties on the side of the enemy as a result of the bomb run due to the vastness of the area and thickness of the forest.
He added that there were reports that ASG leader Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan and his men have also separated in order to escape government troops who were after them.
“May mga report pero hindi pa ma-confirm dahil report lang eh, wala pang body count talagang nakuha eh. May mga natamaan pero naidala, nabitbit yata nila [We have received reports but there is still no confirmation, there are still no body count. Some of them were hit but were taken],” Pabayo said.
“Hindi namin ma pinpoint pa eh maraming nagsabi may sampu, may syam, wala pang confirmation [We cannot still pinpoint, some are saying 10, some nine, there is still no confirmation],” he added.
Aside from fatalities, some ASG members were also reported wounded in the aerial bombardment.
Pabayo said their information was only based on intelligence reports they have been receiving on the ground.
Col. Gerry Besana, spokesman of the AFP Western Mindanao Command, said at 6:40 a.m. Friday, March 8, the air assets of the PAF conducted a bomb run targeting 200 combined ASG members under ASG leader Radulan Sahiron and Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan in Sitios Agas-Agas and Limasan of Barangay Kabbun Takas, Patikul, Sulu.
Pabayo said they have stepped-up their tactical offensives against the ASG following the monitored and validated consolidation of the ASG terrorists in the hinterland of Patikul.