MILITARY FORCES conducting operations to rescue the remaining kidnap victims of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in the hinterlands of Sulu had an encounter with some 60 members of the bandit group early Monday, which left one ASG dead. Lt. Gen Arnel B. Dela Vega, commander of the Western Mindanao Command (WesMinCom), said the 21st Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army exchanged fire with the ASG under Almujer Yadah and Idang Susukan in the mountainous village of Bungkaong. “This latest encounter only shows how persistent our forces are to track down the terrorist groups wherever they go to make sure that they are decimated and that remaining kidnap victims are also rescued,” Mr. Dela Vega said in a statement released late Monday. He said there was no casualty on the military side. WesMinCom records show that since January this year, 38 ASG members have been killed during encounters, 32 in Sulu and six from Basilan. The ASG is still holding at least 10 kidnapped foreigners and locals. Last May, the military leadership ordered WesMinCom to “wipe out” the ASG by end-2018. — Albert F. Arcilla