ABU SAYYAF LEADER, 16 REBELS DEAD IN SULU CLASH

Zamboanga City, Feb. 7, 2003 - - An Abu Sayyaf commander and 16 of his men were killed in a clash yesterday with Marines in the jungles of Patikul in Sulu.

A Marine was also killed and four others were wounded in the fighting. One of the wounded died later while undergoing treatment at Camp Navarro General Hospital at the Armed Forces Southern Command (Southcom) headquarters in Zamboanga City.

"We have reliable information that the unidentified commander and 16 others have been killed," Lt. Gen. Narciso Abaya, Southcom chief, said. "The Abu Sayyaf suffered a bigger number of casualty."

The Abu Sayyaf's death toll has risen to 19 since the military offensive in Sulu started last week.

Abaya said the bandits with their seven hostages three Indonesian seamen and four Jehova's Witnesses woman evangelists have been trying to elude pursuing troops, and have run out of medical and water supplies.

"Aside from the slain bandits, the troops also recovered an M16 attached with M203 grenade launcher believed to be a weapon of a bandit leader," he said.

It was the fourth time that Marines have clashed with the men of Abu Sayyaf leader Radulan Sahiron since last month, he added.

Col. Alexander Aleo, Army commander in Sulu, said troops have been deployed to block the expected escape route of the Abu Sayyaf. (Al Jacinto, PHNO Mindanao Bureau)


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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