ZAMBOANGA CITY--Government forces killed a member of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in a fresh clash with the bandits in Sulu, military officials said on Monday.

Brig. Gen. Divino Rey Pabayo, Joint Task Force Sulu commander, said the clash happened around 3:20 p.m. Saturday in Sitio Sailih, Barangay Panglayahan in Patikul, Sulu.

Pabayo said troops from the Army’s 32nd Infantry Battalion, led by Lt. Col. Ronaldo Mateo, were checking the reported presence of the ASG when they clash with a group of 40 bandits led by sub-leader Hatib Hajaan Sawadjaan. The military has been pursuing the group in a bid to rescue several remaining hostages.

The Sulu-based Abu Sayyaf bandits are still holding captive nine people consisting of five foreigners--three Indonesians, one Vietnamese and one Dutch--as well as three Filipinos.

Pabayo said the firefight lasted for about 35 minutes, after which,  the ASG bandits fled. No casualty was reported among the government troops.

He said the troops recovered improvised bombs and personal belongings abandoned by the bandits.

“We are thankful for the information given by the local populace every time the bandits come to the area. This only shows that the people is fed up of the menace brought by the ASG and because they want to move forward towards peace and development in their locality,” Pabayo said.

Lt. Gen. Arnel Dela Vega, commander of the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom), said the offensive against the ASG will continue and is meant to finish off the bandits “so that people in the area can live in peace.”

Dela Vega said the continuing offensive also meant to secure on-going government projects that are aimed at delivering services to the communities.

“The ASG has brought so much destruction in Western Mindanao so we really have to join hands in defeating them. Of course, they can yield to the government and opt to live peacefully with their family,” Dela Vega said. (PNA)