JOLO , Philippines, Aug. 30 (UPI) — Fifteen Philippine Army soldiers were killed, two of them beheaded, in clashes with the Islamist insurgent group Abu Sayyaf.
Another 10 soldiers were injured on Monday, the fifth day of a military offensive ordered by President Roberto Duterte against the terrorist organization. Gun battles took place all day in Patikul, an Abu Sayyaf stronghold about six miles from Jolo, the capital of the Philippines’ Sulu province. A spokesman for the Armed Forces of the Philippines said troops engaged “more or less 120 heavily armed terrorists” in Patikul.
Since the government offensive began Friday, the bodies of at least 16 Abu Sayyaf members, including alleged sub-commanders, have been recovered in Sulu, the military said. The military’s actions follow the discovery on August 24 of the severed head of a man kidnapped by Abu Sayyaf on July 16, followed by Duterte’s order to police and the military to vanquish the terrorist group.
“My orders to the police and armed forces against enemies of the state: seek them out in their lairs and destroy them. The Abu Sayyaf, destroy them, period,” Duterte told a press conference.
Defense secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Monday five more military battalions, or about 2,500 people, will be dedicated to eradicating Abu Sayyaf.