World Bulletin / News Desk
Government forces pounded Abu Sayyaf positions with artillery Tuesday morning, forcing the armed group to withdraw during intense clashes on the south Philippines island of Sulu.
Brig. Gen. Alan Arrojado said in a statement that the guerrillas -- together with foreigners he described as cohorts from Malaysia and Indonesia -- appeared to have suffered casualties due to heavy howitzer shelling in the village of Bungkaong.
Arrojado said his troops had chanced upon a group of around 30 Abu Sayyaf gunmen led by Guro Ibrahim around 8:55 a.m. (0055GMT) Tuesday.
The militants were laying IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) when the army arrived and began firing on them, he added.
He said that the al Qaeda-linked group may have suffered casualties from their own IEDs exploding while the battle was ongoing.
After around 35 minutes of heavy exchanges, the militants are reported to have withdrawn deep into the jungle.
MG-520 attack helicopters took off from the Edwin Andrews Air Base in Zamboanga City and flew to the troubled island province - and hotbed of Abu Sayyaf activity - to provide air support.
Arrojado added that troops had put up blocking positions to contain the group's movements while military operations continue.
Since 1991, the Abu Sayyaf -- armed with mostly improvised explosive devices, mortars and automatic rifles -- has carried out bombings, kidnappings, assassinations and extortion in a self-determined fight for an independent Islamic province in the Philippines.
It is notorious for beheading victims after ransoms have failed to have been paid for their release.Last Mod: 22 Eylül 2015, 11:15