Seven dead in Basilan clashes
Seven people, including two government soldiers and five members of the Al Qaida-linked Abu Sayyaf Group, were killed as of Saturday, during clashes that began in Basilan island, southern Philippines on Friday, a military spokesperson said.
Assi Kalitot and Basri Musa who belonged to the group of Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon were killed during clashes with government soldiers at the boundary of Tipo-Tipo and Unkaya Pukan towns in Basilan, said Captain Maria Rowena Muyuela, spokeswoman of the military’s Western Mindanao Command.
Muyuela, added that several Abu Sayyaf members were wounded at the time.
Two soldiers were also killed and 29 others were wounded when clashes began on Friday. “The numbers have not changed. The Western Command has contacted the relatives of our personnel who were killed in action,” Muyuela said, but did not reveal the identities of the slain soldiers.
The wounded government soldiers were brought to Camp Navarro Gegeral Hospital where they underwent treatment for shrapnel wounds,” said Muyuela.
Earlier, Lieutenant Colonel Ramon Zagala said the military operation specifically targeted Abu Sayyaf commander Indama and his 20 followers in the Basilan area. He denied allegations that Indama was suspected to be the leader of the Abu Sayyaf Group that kidnapped a Malaysian tourist and a Filipina receptionist from a diving resort on April 2.
“Another group was assigned to track down the Abu Sayyaf Group that kidnapped the Malaysian tourists and the Filipina receptionist,” said Zagala. He did not give details.
There is a 3.4 million peso (Dh283,333) bounty for Indama’s capture. He has been blamed for kidnap ransom activities that have victimised foreign nationals, and beheadings and desecrations of body parts of kidnap-victims, said Zagala.
In 2002, the Philippine government allowed the presence of US soldiers in the south, to give intelligence assistance to Filipino soldiers who have been tracking down the Abu Sayyaf Group.
In the early 1990s, the Abu Sayyaf was established in the south with the help of the brother-in-law of the Osama Bin Laden, leader of the Al Qaida network.