AFP, MILF accuse each other of ceasefire violation in Basilan clash

ZAMBOANGA CITY (MindaNews/20 October) – The military and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front are now blaming each other as to who is responsible for the clash in Al Barka town in Basilan last Tuesday that killed 19 soldiers. Both likewise accused each other of violating the ceasefire agreement.

“Since the MILF has already claimed responsibility for engaging our soldiers, we shall not only file ceasefire violations against them but also murder and frustrated murder charges against their members who are responsible for the killing and wounding of our soldiers,” said Lt. Gen. Raymundo Ferrer, Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom) chief.

He said they will file a complaint before the Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH).

The military has acknowledged that 19 soldiers, including four officers, were killed while 15 were wounded in the clash at Sitio Bakisung, Barangay Cambug in Al-Barka municipality.

But the MILF, in its luwaran.com website, claimed 22 Army Special Forces perished in the nine-hour fight. The MILF also admitted that six of them were “martyred” and one was wounded in the clash.

The MILF said “the fighting started when government soldiers deliberately attacked an MILF area without provocation at all.” The Moro group said it will also file a ceasefire violation complaint against the AFP.

Lt. Col. Randolph Cabangbang, WestMinCom spokesman, said the troops were sent on patrol in Cambug to check on the reported presence of a bandit group along with a kidnap victim when the clash broke out.

The military said those responsible behind the soldiers’ death were the groups of Long Malat of the Abu Sayyaf and Dan Laksa Asnawi, the deputy commander of the 114th Base Command of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Ferrer said Malat is a known associate of Asnawi.

Asnawi, noted Cabangbang, was among 30 inmates who escaped from the Basilan provincial jail in December 2009. The rebel leader was also involved in the beheading of 14 Marines in July 2007 in Barangay Ginanta, also in Al-Barka, the military spokesman said.

Cabangbang said all the missing soldiers were already all accounted for.

Of the 10 earlier reported as missing, he said seven were found dead Wednesday while two wounded soldiers managed to safely reach a military detachment in Al-Barka.

Six of the seven dead were recovered by the group of Basilan Vice Gov. Alrasheed Sakkalahul while the other one was recovered by government troops.

Cabangbang said the remaining missing soldier, Private First Class (PFC) Michael Natividad, managed to seek refuge at a military detachment in Barangay Bohe Lebung, Al-Barka.

Natividad, who also suffered injuries, was airlifted to a military hospital in Zamboanga City. (With reports from MindaNews contributor Romy Elusfa)

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