(Photo from GMA News)
TAGBILARAN CITY â€” At least four government troops and five alleged Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) rebels were killed in the early Tuesday encounter in Sitio Ibaya, Barangay Napo in Inabanga town, Bohol.
The government casualties comprised an Army lieutenant, two soldiers and a member of the Philippine National Police (PNP) Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT), said Lt. Dodie Belloga, commander of the 47th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army based in Bohol.
One soldier was also wounded in action, Belloga added.
Also, government troops recovered five bodies of armed men and confiscated four high-powered firearms, including three M-16 Armalite rifles and one M-4 rifle, he said.
Authorities in the island- province of Camiguin, a popular tourist destination in Northern Mindanao, heightened their security as government troops and members of the notorious Abu Sayyaf Group clashed in Bohol on Tuesday.
Reports said that five Abu Sayyaf bandits and four government troops were killed following the clash in Inabanga town.
Lt. Col. Belloga disclosed that the joint Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and PNP operation was carried out after they received intelligence reports of the presence of unidentified armed men, numbering more or less 10, in Bohol.
The government troops immediately set out at the break of dawn Tuesday to track down the said armed men, and while on patrol, an encounter ensued around 6:45 a.m., where the government forces immediately lost four of its troopers during the first volley of shots, he said.
Hot pursuit operations ensued as the police and military continued to close in on the rebels, he added.
An air strike by governmentâ€™s F260 planes at the encounter site was launched hours later as hundreds of civilians in the area were made to evacuate to safer ground.
Lt. Col. Belloga said he earlier told the mayor of Inabanga and the village officials that residents must be evacuated so they would not be caught in the crossfire or used as hostage or human shield by the armed group.
The clashes continued sporadically until Tuesday afternoon as military and police personnel were determined to not allow any of the suspected Abu Sayyaf bandits to leave the island.