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MILF admits attack against Marines, says 23 troops dead

July 11, 2007 11:52am

Tags: Basilan
(Updated 2:15 p.m.) The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) admitted attacking government forces in Basilan last Tuesday, adding that 23 Marines searching for abducted Italian priest Giancarlo Bossi were killed in the day-long encounter.

MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal said violence broke out after the Philippine Marines entered their camp in Tipo-Tipo town.

"Our troops thought they were under attack that's why they fought back. If they just coordinate with our men in the ground, it should have not happened," Iqbal added.

Lieutenant Col. Ariel Caculitan, spokesman for the Philippine Marines, said the death toll on the government side was 14 as of Wednesday noon, after the remains of six missing servicemen were recovered.

All of the six bodies were decapitated, bringing the total number of beheaded Marines to 10. Nine more people were injured.

QTV television's Balitanghali quoted military officials as saying that no less than 20 members of the armed group were killed.

Iqbal said the MILF would look into the reported beheading.

"We are investigating and determining the identities of those involved. We have an existing policy not to harm any captured enemy," Iqbal said.

He added that, "All in all, in our report, 23 government troops were killed, eleven of them on the spot, and 12 others were wounded. The bodies of beheaded soldiers were found."

The Armed Forces claimed that as many as 300 to 500 men overpowered their troops as the Marines were on their way back from search operations for Bossi.

Two M35 military trucks were destroyed while the armed group captured another such vehicle during the incident, Iqbal said.

The MILF online website Luwaran said a total of 27 firearms were recovered from the scene. These are: six M60 machine guns; eight M203 grenade launchers, 10 M-16 Armalite rifles, a 60-mm mortar, and several night vision goggles.

Iqbal said two M-14 rifles with sniper scopes and two radio transceivers were also found.

GMA News, reporting over dzBB radio, said the encounter dragged on from 10:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. Tuesday.

The Marines were supposed to head back to their camp when they were met by a "heavy volume of fire," the report said.

Marine Major Gen. Ben Mohammad Dolorfino, head of the government's Ad Hoc Joint Advisory Group (Ahjag), noted that beheading was an execution style of the Abu Sayyaf.

"There were reports that the son of Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon were among the fatalities. He reportedly suffered a gunshot wound to his mouth," Dolorfino said in Filipino during an interview on dzMM radio.

"They got angry, that's why they decapitated the Marines," he added.

Hapilon is said to be the chief of the Abu Sayyaf faction in Basilan. - GMANews.TV

Tags: Basilan



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