This would be big international news if the casulaties were Americans! The AFP have been trying to round up the Abu Sayaf fighters for some time but without much success it seems. The group now seems to be joined by another rebel force that have given up on the peace process. There are many separatists in Mindanao and especially in the Sulu archipelago where these actions are taking place. Many commentators are questioning the competence of some Philippine generals. Troops manage to get themselves ambushed regularly it seems. The AFP face not only the Muslim separatist rebels but also the Maoist New People's Army. The latter are active in many rural parts of the Philippines.
Gov’t losses rise to 25 in Sulu
Seen as single biggest casualty in a day
BY VICTOR REYES
TWENTY-FIVE soldiers died and 17 were wounded in twin clashes with forces of the Abu Sayyaf and the Misuari Breakaway Group in Sulu Thursday, the biggest troop casualty in one day.
AFP public information office chief Lt. Col. Bartolome Bacarro yesterday said that according to intelligence reports, 27 ASG men died and 25 were wounded.
At around 7:45 a.m. Thursday, ASG and rogue MNLF forces ambushed an 11-man team from the 33rd Infantry Battalion in Dayuan village in Indanan town, killing 10 soldiers and a boy.
At around 3:30 p.m., pursuing elements of the 33rd IB caught up with the two groups in the village of Tampaking in Maimbung town, resulting in the killing of 15 soldiers.
Bacarro said the two groups were under Radullan Sahiron, Dr. Abu Pula and Albader Parad, the three top Abu leaders in Sulu.
Bacarro said: "As far as I can remember, this is our biggest casualty in a day – 25."
Last July 10, 14 Marines died in an ambush by secessionist forces in Al-Barka, Basilan. Ten of the dead were later beheaded.
Bacarro said Armed Forces chief Gen. Hermogenes Esperon Jr. has ordered two Army battalions to augment eight Army and Marine battalions in Sulu.
Bacarro said the 33rd IB would be pulled out from Sulu and replaced by another Army battalion.
Bacarro said Jemaah Islamiah leaders Dulmatin and Omar Patek might be with the ASG and MBG forces.
"The troops were pursuing the group of Parad, Dr. Abu and Sahiron. So they were pursuing an enemy who were in defensive position and of course that is one tactical difficulty or disadvantage that our troops encountered," said Bacarro.
He said two MG-520 attack helicopters and two UH-1H or Huey helicopters have been sent to provide aerial support.
Bacarro said latest military information shows there are at least 200 Abu Sayyaf bandits in Sulu.
He said they have no available data on the strength of the MBG, a group loyal to former Moro National Liberation Front chairman and ARMM Gov. Nur Misuari. Misuari is in detention on charges of rebellion.
Bacarro said the military cannot say if the re-alignment of forces of Sahiron, Dr. Abu and Parad was meant to divert military focus from the ongoing operations in Basilan.
"In Basilan, we are running after the fugitives, we are running after the perpetrators of the beheading, while here in Sulu, we are running after the ASG," he said.
He said there have been no reports of residents displaced by the fighting.
He said Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro has directed the National Disaster Coordinating Council to look at contingencies or probable displacements in the area.
Esperon said successive clashes with the ASG and MBG show that government troops are closing in on them.
Esperon said the ASG is now down to 370 men, mostly deployed in Sulu.
Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye, in a statement, assured the families of the dead and wounded soldiers would be assisted. – With Jocelyn Montemayor