DEATH toll of four-day encounter between government forces and the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in Patikul, Sulu, has climbed to 45, including 15 soldiers and 30 bandits, and 29 troopers wounded.
This was based on the update issued yesterday by Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)-Public Affairs Office (PAO) chief Col. Edgard Arevalo.
On Monday, three encounters occurred in Patikul. The first occurred at 1:50 p.m. in Sitio Kugan, Bgy. Bakung, between Joint Task Force Sulu and at least 30 heavily armed bandits led by their sub-leader Jamiri Jawong Jauhari.
The firefight lasted for about 30 minutes and resulted in the killing of two bandits.
The second encounter occurred at 3:42 p.m. in Bgy. Kuttong, Talipao, that resulted in the death of two other bandits and wounding of two soldiers.
The third encounter happened at 4:30 p.m. in Sitio Kan Jalul, Bgy. Maligay, Patikul, wherein soldiers from the Army’s 35th Infantry Battalion (IB) and 21st IB engaged some 120 armed terrorists, led by Radullan Sahiron, which left 15 soldiers, including an officer, dead and the wounding of 10 others.
On Monday alone, four bandits and 15 soldiers were killed while 10 soldiers were wounded.
Fourteen of the fatalities were identified as Sgt. Jay Erwin Almohallas, Cpl. Omar Raddulan, Pfcs. Nestor Bacaling Jr., Jison Falcasantos, Gerald Yubal, Dhendo Dujo, Roselito Arnoco and Glend Cosicol Resma; Cpl. Ronald Galloniga, Pfc. Rogelio Vincoy Jr., S/Sgt. Ruel Catubay, Cpl. Elid Ismael, Cpl. Saik Mandangan and Pvt. Jonas Lumayan.
Arevalo said soldiers grieve for their fallen comrades but they pressed on in the fight.
Earlier, 21 bandits were killed as government forces implement intensified operation against the bandits following the order of President Rodrigo Duterte for the AFP to attack and destroy them.
AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Ricardo Visaya ordered all flags in military camps be put on half-mast.
“As we gaze at the national flag that flies at half-mast anew, soldiers knew that one too many hero among them has again offered his life -- that may others may live,” Visaya said.
Despite the loss of lives, Visaya vowed to pursue the battle against the bandits into conclusion.