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05 December 2000 - ABS-CBN

Four killed, 24 hurt in Abu Sayyaf clashes in Sulu

ZAMBOANGA CITY, (ABS-CBN) - Two soldiers and two bandits were killed while 24 others were wounded in a series of clashes between government troops and extremist Abu Sayyaf bandits in Patikul town, Sulu over the weekend.

Reports reaching Camp Aguinaldo said the encounter between elements of the 7th Infantry Battalion and 40 armed men took place in Barangay Darayan around 8:40 a.m. Sunday.

The firefight lasted for six hours after which the rebels fled in different directions.

In the initial volley of fire, two soldiers and two rebels were killed. An additional 24 soldiers, including an unidentified officer, were wounded.

Two hours later, an Army platoon led by Lt. Tirado encountered 10 fleeing Abu Sayyaf bandits and engaged the enemy in an hour-long exchange of gunfire.

Around 3:16 p.m. that same day, another platoon chanced upon 30 bandits in Danag, Patikul and engaged the guerillas for an hour.

The series of encounters came in a bid to rescue American hostage Jeffrey Schilling and the lone remnant of the Sipadan hostages, Filipino Rolando Ullah who are reportedly being held by the group of Ghalib Andang alias Commander Robot.

Since operations were launched last September 16, a total of 150 encounters have taken place which resulted to the killing of a total of 205 Abu Sayyaf bandits, the capture of 174 and the surrender of 261 others.

In contrast, 14 soldiers and civilian volunteers have died while an additional 77 others have been wounded since the start of military offensives against the extremist group.

Only last week, intelligence reports said, Schilling was spotted roaming in Jolo town with no armed escorts, further fanning speculations the American may not be a kidnap victim after all.

Reports were rife that Schilling was not kidnapped by the group but is in fact one of their arms supplier.

ASG mass graves
Meanwhile, members of the joint Task Force Trident stumbled upon a mass grave in Patikul where at least 15 suspected Abu Sayyaf members were buried.

Elements of the Bravo company of the 77th Infantry Battalion were conducting reconnaissance and combat patrol operations at the vicinity of Mount Bagsak in Patikul when they discovered the bodies buried on shallow graves Friday morning.

The military believes the bodies are casualties of encounters with government troops about three to four weeks ago.

This led the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Southern command to believe that more bodies are buried in other parts of Patikul as the Abu Sayyaf has suffered much casualties since the start of the military assault.

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