Troops verifying death of ranking ASG leader in Sulu clash (Philippines News Agency)

Joint Task Group Sulu operatives are still determining the veracity of the report that Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) sub-leader Alden Bagadi was among the 15 bandits slain during a pitched battle in Indanan, Sulu Wednesday.

This was revealed Thursday by Capt. Antonio Bulao, Joint Task Group Sulu spokesman.

But they also have reports that Bagadi’s cousin, Arafat, was among those killed in the encounter.

In the confusion resulting from the battle, two kidnapped Coast Guard personnel managed to give their captors the slip.

Soldiers found SN2 Gringo Villaruz in Barangay Buanza around 7 a.m. and SN1 Rod Pagaling around 8:30 a.m.

“Villaruz was able to escape from his captors at the height of firefight,” Bulao said in a text message.

Both Villaruz and Pagaling were not injured but have been taken to the Kuta Heneral Teodulfo Bautista Trauma Hospital in Jolo for medical examination.

The rescue of the two came hours after troops battled about 100 Abu Sayyaf members led by sub-commanders Yasser Igasan and Alhabsy Misaya in Barangay Buanza.

Members of the Army’s Scout Rangers, backed by artillery fire, stormed a bandit lair in that barangay from 5:25 p.m. to 7 p.m. in an operation aimed at rescuing kidnap victims.

Fifteen ASG bandits were reportedly killed in the clash though only five bodies have so far been recovered.

On the other hand, four members of the 1st Scout Ranger Battalion were slightly wounded.

Villaruz and Pagaling were abducted along with Barangay Aliguay chairman Rodolfo Buligao in Dapitan City, Zamboanga del Norte, last May 4.

ASG members threatened to behead the three if the Php1-million ransom demand for each of them was not given.

Buligao’s severed head and body were found at a road junction in Maimbung town last Aug. 11.

Bulao said nine kidnap victims, four of whom are foreigners, remain in the hands of ASG members in different parts of Sulu.

Villaruz and Pagaling had been spotted with 200 bandits and four other captives, three of whom have foreign-sounding surnames, three days before the assault in Indanan.

The foreign captives who had been with Villaruz and Pagaling are Malaysian and Korean nationals. (PNA)

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