By Teofilo Garcia Jr.
ZAMBOANGA CITY — An Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) bomb expert was killed while two soldiers were wounded as troops overran an ASG encampment following a firefight in the hinterlands of Sulu around 11:39 a.m. Tuesday, top military officials said Thursday.
Lieutenant General Cirilito Sobejana, Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) chief, said the troops were conducting focused military operation at sitio Tubig Pansol in Barangay Langhub of Patikul town in Sulu where they clashed with 40 bandits led by ASG leaders Almujer Yadah, Ben Tattoh, and Apo Mike.
Sobejana said the firefight lasted about 20 minutes before the ASG bandits scampered to different directions in as they retreated.
Sobejana said the troops recovered an AK-47 assault rifle and the remains of the slain ASG bandit, who was later identified as Nanz Sawadjaan, the younger brother of ASG sub-leader Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan.
Major Gen. Corleto Vinluan Jr., Joint Task Force Sulu commander, disclosed that Nanz Sawadjaan was one of the ASG’s bomb experts who produced the improvised explosive devices (IEDs) used in the recent suicide bombing incidents in Sulu.
“The neutralization of Nanz Sawadjaan is a great loss on the Abu Sayyaf. His demise will debilitate the current strategy employed by the group in creating havoc in the province (of Sulu),” Vinluan said.
Sobejana did not identify the two wounded soldiers except that they belong to the Army’s 41st Infantry Battalion. He said they were taken to Camp Teodulfo Bautista Station Hospital in Jolo, Sulu for treatment.
He said the troops have launched pursuit operation to neutralize the fleeing ASG bandits.
The United States has listed the ASG as a foreign terrorist organization because of its links with the al-Qaida terror group.
“Our troops remain persistent in tracking down and neutralizing the remaining terrorists in Sulu,” Sobejana said.
“The successful operations of our troops are also attributed to the local community who feeds information, directing our troops to the terrorists’ location,” he added. (PNA)