The UH1H 'Huey' chopper is normally used by the Armed Forces of the Philippines during military operations in the bandit-infested areas like Sulu province. It is the Philippine military's work horse for casualty evacuation and troop insertion missions. (Photo by Harold M Cabunoc)
PATIKUL, Sulu-- Seven members of the Philippine Marines including an officer lay dead while battling Abu Sayyaf bandits in a hinterland village here early morning today.
The fatalities were part of the Marine patrol led by 2nd Lt Lorin which was sent to pursue the suspects of the recent kidnapping of the Marine's wife in downtown Jolo.
The clash happened in the village of Tugas, a known bailiwick of Abu Sayyaf leader Radulan Sahiron a.k.a. Kumander Putol.
Five Abu Sayyaf bandits were killed during the said firefight which also resulted to the wounding of 9 other Marines.
The casualties were promptly airlifted to a local hospital for treatment.
Many more members of the Abu Sayyaf were either killed or wounded based on the blood traces which were found along the escape route.
Military officials believe that local residents who are normally armed, joined the firefight in order to help their relatives who are members of the Abu Sayyaf.
While there is an ongoing peace process with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, combat operations against the dreaded bandit group have continued.
The Muslim community has condemned the Abu Sayyaf group for perpetrating the series of kidnappings and attacks against civilians.
Military authorities in the area have vowed to pursue the Abu Sayyaf bandits while ensuring that innocent civilians are protected from harm.