Landmines did the soldiers in: 20 dead PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 11 April 2016 13:56

By DAN TORIBIO

Landmine booby traps set up by Abu Sayyaf fighters aided by foreign Islamic militant bomb experts did the Philippine Army soldiers in killing 18 of them and wounding 53 others in the worst battle that erupted in Tipo-Tipo, Basilan Saturday.

Among the 18 dead in the 10-hour fierce firefight were Capt. Dexter Dantug of the 19th Special Force Company and Capt Mauricio Kilbas  and 16 soldiers of the army’s 44th Infantry Battalion.

The Abu Sayyaf militants that has aligned with the Islamic State suffered five deaths including a Moroccan identified Mohammad Khattab, a bomb expert, whose body was plucked from Barangay Baguindan, site of the encounter.

One of the slain militants was Ubaida Hapilon, son of Isnilon Hapilon, who carried a $5 million bounty on his head.

Richard Falcatan, station manager of Basilan-based dxNO, said another foreign fighter captured and  was in military custody undergoing tactical interrogation.

A military intelligence source who talked on condition of anonymity as he is not authorized to talk to reporters told DZT the big casualty on the army was due to landmine booby traps that exploded in several parts of the encounter site.

He said the first landmine went off hitting a a truck carrying army troops. Heavy exchange of fire followed after the explosion and more landmines exploded as troops tried to close in on 120 heavily armed Abu Sayyaf fighters.

Gen. Hernando Iriberri, Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff, said Sunday government troops were on military operations against the Abu Sayyaf in the area when they were surprised by landmines.

Close to 120 heavily armed militants fought the troops starting 8 a.m.up to sundown.

Government forces were deployed to get Abu Sayyaf commander Isnilon Hapilon, who has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State and is being hunted for years for his alleged involvement in several terrorist attacks. He carried a $5 million bounty oin his head.

A military report said Radmil Jamatul, a sub-leader of group was also wounded during the clash.

Among the soldiers killed were 1Lt. Remegio B. Licena, Cpl. Redel Perolino, PFC Doren Aspurias, PFC Marjun Duhaylungsod, PFC Marjohn  Monte, Sgt. Jason Alani,  SSgt. Makin Jarani, Cpl. Rodelio Bangcairin, Sgt. Paterno Oquino, Cpl. Noel Else, Cpl. Dionisio Labial, Cpl. Rakib Kadil, PFC Kevin Rey Verano, Cpl. Reezvi Arshcelo Gandawali, Sgt. AkhadUsman, Pvt. Dunemark Gil Saldivar, Cpl. Darius Bulan and Cpl. Ibrahim Palao.

SSgt. Jarani and Sgt. Oquino were reportedly beheaded by the militants.

The wounded soldiers were airlifted to Camp Navarro General Hospital at the Wesmincom headquarters while the bodies of the slain soldiers were claimed by their

Filemon Tan Jr., Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom) spokesperson, told reporters that soldiers of Joint Task Force Group Basilan were conducting operations when they encountered around 120 Abu Sayyaf members and “intense firefight ensued… that lasted for almost ten hours.”

He described the slain Moroccan as an expert and instructor in bomb-making and an extremist preacher involved in efforts to unite armed groups and kidnap-for-ransom gangs in the archipelago’s south.

Lt. Gen. Mayoralgo dela Cruz, WestMinCom commander, applauded his troops for fighting “gallantly” despite “enemy resistance” and the militants’ advantage due to familiarity with the terrain in Basilan.

“We salute our troops as they displayed the finest traditions of soldiery and bravely fought the bandits with utmost valor,” he said.

“We are truly better for their sacrifice and we will take inspiration from their exemplary service.”

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and Armed Forces chief Gen. Hernando Iriberri flew to Zamboanga and Basilan on Sunday to visit wounded troops and meet the ground commanders.

Iriberri told reporters in the city that sporadic fighting was ongoing in Tipo-tipo town.

“There is an encounter going on in the same place... we are pursuing the enemies and conducting succeeding operations,” he said.

Nearly a thousand families are reported to have fled three villages near the site of the clashes.

The Abu Sayyaf’s Hapilon is wanted by the Philippine and United States governments on kidnapping and bombing charges, and was indicted in Washington for “terrorist acts against U.S. nationals and other foreign nationals.”

Last year, he appeared in a video posted on YouTube in which he and his men swear allegiance to Islamic Stat

Gen. Iriberri, said Sunday the military has confirmed that Moroccan bomb-making instructor and jihadist Mohammad Khattab was killed in the encounter He said Khattab was one of two foreign terrorists who had been working with the Abu Sayyaf group in Basilan.

Iriberri said the other foreign terrorist was Malaysian jihadist Mohammad Najib Hussein (alias Abu Anas), who was killed in a military offensive in Barangay Macalang, in Al-Barka town, Basilan last December.

“Khattab was part of that group in Macalang,” Iriberri said, adding the group had since moved to Tipo-Tipo, where a gunbattle left 18 soldiers dead and 56 others wounded after 10 hours of fighting on Saturday.

Iriberri, who is retiring on April 22, visited the wounded soldiers at the Camp Navarro General Hospital and awarded them medals in recognition of their bravery.