Manila, Apr 23 (efe-epa).- Six members of extremist group Abu Sayyaf died and eight army soldiers were wounded as they exchanged fire in Sulu archipelago, southern Philippines, the second clash involving the jihadist organization registered this week.
The confrontation, which lasted about 30 minutes, occurred Wednesday night in the city of Patikul, a town in Sulu where the Jihadists’ main camp is located, according to the commander of the Philippine Armed Forces in Western Mindanao. Abu Sayyaf has sworn allegiance to the Islamic State.
“The Army is maintaining military operations focused on Sulu to defeat the Abu Sayyaf group and bring peace to that province,” commander Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana said.
Among the deceased Jihadists, the army has already identified several leaders of the group, Guro Khalid, Udal Muhamadar Said and Budah; while the eight wounded soldiers were transferred to the general hospital in the city of Zamboanga.
On Friday, 13 soldiers died in a similar confrontation against Abu Sayyaf militias in Sulu – the most remote island province of the Philippines – and a dozen were wounded.
Founded in 1991 by veterans of the Afghanistan war against the Soviet Union, Abu Sayyaf is now the strongest Jihadist group in Southeast Asia, having gained international notoriety in 2016 when it beheaded two Canadians after they failed to produce the ransom sought for them.
In 2014, they swore allegiance to the Islamic State, and since the fall of the caliphate, at least 100 foreign fighters who fled Syria and Iraq found refuge with them in the Sulu archipelago, which has become the last stronghold of Abu Sayyaf. The group comprises some 300 troops.
The arrival of foreign extremists in the Philippines has involved the importation of new forms of more extreme violence, such as lone wolves and suicide bombings, a method that was not common among local groups.
Since August 2018, the Philippines has suffered four suicide bombings, all claimed by the Islamic State and all but one perpetrated by foreigners on the islands of Sulu and Basilan.
Other Jihadist groups loyal to the Islamic State also operate in Muslim Mindanao, such as the Islamic Fighters for the Liberation of the Bangsamoro, Ansar Khalifa Philippines or Maute. EFE-EPA