12 dead in Basilan clashes

ZAMBOANGA CITY (MindaNews/12 April) – The sporadic clashes between government forces and the Abu Sayyaf bandits in Basilan province on Friday have left 12 persons dead, including two soldiers, military officials disclosed Saturday.

Capt. Jefferson Mamauag, Army’s First Infantry Division information officer, disclosed that the 10 other fatalities were all Abu Sayyaf bandits.

The slain bandits are followers of Puruji Indama, Isnilon Hapilon and Nur-Hassan Jamiri, he said.

Capt. Maria Rowena Muyuela, Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) information officer, revealed that 18 soldiers were wounded in the sporadic clashes.

Muyuela said the wounded soldiers were airlifted to the Camp Navarro General Hospital located inside Camp Basilio Navarro that also houses the headquarters of Westmincom in this city.

The sporadic clashes ensued when government forces launched a combat operation against the Abu Sayyaf bandits, who were reportedly trying to extort money from a private contractor concreting the Magkawa-Al-Barka section of the Basilan Circumferential Road.

The first clash erupted at around 2:25 a.m. Friday at Sitio Kurellem, Barangay Silangkum in Tipo-Tipo town. Another clash broke out several minutes later in the same area.

Muyuela said that sporadic clashes continued until late Friday as the government forces pressed on the Abu Sayyaf bandits.

She said that the bandits are demanding P5 million from the construction firm undertaking the road concreting project.

Muyuela said that the Abu Sayyaf bandits are also involved in the kidnapping of Sabrina Ikbala Voon in this city.

Voon, a dealer of cosmetic products, was seized by six gunmen from her residence last February 19 in Barangay Mercedes.

Mamauag said the Abu Sayyaf bandits are on the run and that government troops are tracking them down. (MindaNews)