A GRANDSON of Abu Sayyaf Group leader Radullan Sahiron was critically wounded in a gun battle after security forces chanced upon a huge contingent of heavily armed bandits in the jungles in Sulu Friday morning, military officials said.
Ground commanders in Sulu, however, said they were still verifying the report.
So far, at least 17 Army soldiers have been wounded in day-long fighting that erupted at 9 a.m. on the outskirts of Patikul, Sulu, a known lair of the terrorist group.
The fierce battle was still raging between some 120 members of the ASG terrorist led by its leader Sahiron and elite Army Scout Ranger forces in Sitio Kan Udong in Barangay Iigasan.
Army spokesman Col. Benjamin Hao Jr. said the intense clashes broke out after troops from the Army’s 32nd Infantry Battalion and 1st Infantry Division under Lt. Col. Ernesto Flores encountered about 120 ASG rebels under Sahiron and sub-leaders Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan and Almuher Yadah.
Some 14 soldiers were hurt and brought to Camp Teodulfo Bautista Trauma Hospital for treatment.
Hao said the soldiers suffered shrapnel wounds.
The series of skirmishes with the Abu Sayyaf flared up after security forces launched a rescue mission for 70-year-old German hostage Jurgen Kantner, but the victim was beheaded by the bandits on Sunday after his family failing to come up with the P30- million ransom demanded for his release.
The beheading of Kantner prompted government forces to conduct a search and destroy operations against the ASG.
There were still no reports of casualties on the Abu Sayyaf side.
The encounter came after the Wednesday firefight in Indanan town where the military reported five terrorists killed and 11 soldiers wounded.
The military continues to search for a strategy to defeat the handful of Muslim terrorists that banded together towards the end of year 2000.
The military claims the ASG’s strength could be more or less 400 men. The terrorists are involved in high-profile kidnapping of foreign and local tourists including tourists and sailors from Malaysia and Indonesia.