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13 soldiers killed, 10 missing in Basilan clash

October 18, 2011 8:44pm

Tags: Basilan
(Updated 11:31 a.m., Oct. 19) Thirteen soldiers were killed while 10 others were reported missing Tuesday as troops clashed with secessionist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels in the southern Philippine province of Basilan.

“Our troops were operating based on information on the presence of an armed group, possibly with kidnap victims," said Lt. Col. Randolph Cabangbang, spokesman of the Armed Forces’ Western Mindanao Command.

Aside from those killed and missing, 12 soldiers were also injured in the clash, Cabangbang said.

In Camp Aguinaldo in Metro Manila, Armed Forces public affairs office chief Col. Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos said an M520 attack helicopter, an OV10 bomber plane and two Huey helicopters provided close-air support for the troops during the fighting.

Reports reaching the Philippine National Police main headquarters in Metro Manila said seven MILF rebels were killed in the clash, namely Ustadz Munip Habibun, Manap Limaya, JJ Rick, Kaharut Abdusal, Baddi, Sibin and Marijul.

Cabangbang said the group was led by one Dan Laksaw Asnawi, a fugitive who, along with 30 others, escaped from the Basilan Provincial Jail on December 30, 2009. He said Asnawi was among those who beheaded 14 Marines in Albarka town in 2007.

The encounter occurred at 5:30 a.m. at Sitio Bakisung Cambug in Albarka, which, according to Cabangbang, is not considered as an MILF territory.

The military and the MILF are currently observing a ceasefire in connection with the ongoing peace negotiations.

However, Cabangbang said they were informed that some MILF rebels were involved in the clash, prompting them to bring the matter to the joint Coordinating Committee in the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) and the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG).

The CCCH and AHJAG were established as part of the standing ceasefire agreement between the government and the MILF as the two parties negotiate for a peace agreement.

“We are currently coordinating with the CCCH and AHJAG because allegedly some MILF members were involved in the killing and wounding of our soldiers," Cabangbang said.

“They (soldiers) did not intrude into MILF areas of temporary stay," he added.

In a statement, the MILF accused the military of violating a standing truce for attacking its fighters in Basilan. It also said that Asnawi is the head of its 114th Base Command.

"This attack of the government forces blatantly violated the existing ceasefire accord between the Government of the Philippines and MILF, which only overstates the insincerity of the government and its armed forces with the ongoing peace process and ceasefire," the MILF said on its website.- KBK, GMA News
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Tags: Basilan

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