ZAMBOANGA CITY – At least seven Marines were wounded in an encounter with the Abu Sayyaf yesterday in Sulu.
The soldiers were on a search and rescue mission for kidnap victims.
Maj. Filemon Tan Jr., spokesman for Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom), said specialized forces ran into the bandit group led by Hairullah Asbang in the vicinity of Barangay Tugas, a mountainous village in Patikul town at about 11 a.m.
Tan said the troops of the Special Operations Command (SOC) 10 and 62nd Marine Company fought it out with the Abu Sayyaf for an hour.
He said the enemy side suffered casualties but an exact number could not be determined as the bandits retreated to the forest.
There was no immediate sighting of any hostages during the encounter.
The clash occurred as the military intensified search and rescue operations to prevent the Abu Sayyaf from harming its captives following an ultimatum that lapses on Monday if the demand of P300 million each for the Samal captives is not met.
Canadians John Ridsdel, Robert Hall, Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad and Filipina Marites Flor were kidnapped on Sept. 21 in Samal Island in Davao.
Aside from the four captives, the Abu Sayyaf was also believed to be holding a Dutch national, 14 Indonesians, four Malaysians, a Chinese woman and six Filipinos.