Death toll in Basilan clash: 10 Abu bandits, 2 soldiers PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, 13 April 2014 13:49

The death toll in Friday’s day-long clash between government forces and Abu Sayyaf Group at the border of Unkaya Pukan and Tipo-Tipo towns, Basilan has now climbed to 12.

Capt. Jefferson Mamauag, 1st Infantry Division spokesperson, said that the Abu Sayyaf suffered 10 deaths while two soldiers died in the heavy firefight.

Wounded in the encounter were 28 soldiers with the ASG sustaining an undetermined number of injured.

The wounded troopers were taken to the Camp Navarro Station Hospital in Zamboanga City for treatment.

The firefight broke out around 2:25 a.m. after the military encountered Abu Sayyaf gunmen under Puruji Indama, Isnilon Hapilon and Nur Hassan Jamiri at Sitio Pansul, Barangay Silangkom, Tipo-Tipo town.

Mamauag said they were still waiting for reports from ground units involved in the fighting regarding the identities of the slain militants.

Men of the 3rd Scout Ranger Battalion, Joint Special Operations Unit 2 (JSOU2), and 18th Infantry Battalion were conducting operations to arrest Indama when they engaged the al Qaeda-linked Islamic militants.

The operation was carried out in response to reports that Indama’s group had threatened and tried to extort P5 million from the contractor of the ongoing Magkawa-Al Barka Road project in the province.

The ASG commander has also been blamed for numerous kidnappings for ransom and terrorist attacks in the Southern Philippines.

Among their victims include former Australian Army soldier Warren Rodwell who was seized December 2011 and released in March 2013.

The military also believes that Indama commanded the beheading of 10 Marines in Basilan in 2007, an ASG attack on Isabela City in April 2010 that left 13 people dead, and the ambush and killing of 19 Amy Special Forces troops in Al-Barka in October 2011.

Capt.Maria Rowena Muyuela, Western Mindanao Command spokesperson, said the operation  was directed “towards the neutralization of the said Abu Sayyaf Group that is responsible for a number of kidnapping and extortion activities including the abduction of Sabrina Ikbala Voon and the P5 million being demanded by the group from the contractor of the ongoing Magkawa-Al Barka road project.

It was not known where Sabrina Voon is being kept.

The Abu Sayyaf Group had earlier been blamed for the kidnapping of a Chinese tourist and a Filipina worker at a dive resort in Sempornah, Sabah, Malaysia last April 2.

The militant group has demanded more than US$11 million in ransom for the release of Gao HUayun.

“The kidnappers have asked for 36.4 million ringgit (US$11.25 million). Gao’s family has appointed someone to negotiate for her safe release,” said Malaysian Home Minister Zahid Hamidi, whose ministry handles internal security and law enforcement.

“We hope this case can be settled as soon as possible.”

Gao, who is 29, and Filipina resort worker Marcy Dayawan, 40, were taken from the Singamata Reef Resort in Malaysia’s Borneo island state of Sabah in a late-night raid by a group of gunmen.

The area of eastern Sabah is famed for its world-class scuba diving but also notorious for lawlessness and kidnappings blamed on bandits from the restive southern Philippines.

The Philippine military said last week the Abu Sayyaf, infamous for kidnappings for ransom, are the prime suspects.

It said the Philippines had responded by deploying soldiers to the remote Tawi-Tawi islands, where the gunmen were believed to have taken the women in a speedboat.

Philippine authorities said they had no knowledge of the ransom negotiations.

The abductors are believed affiliated with Abu Sayyaf “sub-commander” Murphy Ambang Ladjia, who was involved in kidnapping 21 people from another Sabah diving resort in 2000.

Twenty of those hostages — several of whom were foreign tourists — were released within five months, reportedly after hefty ransoms were paid.

Malaysia said at the weekend that Gao’s family in China had been contacted by telephone by her kidnappers.