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Twenty-two soldiers were hurt on Tuesday morning after a land mine exploded in Basilan province near a camp of suspected Abu Sayyaf bandits earlier seized by the military.
Citing field reports, Col. Ricardo Visaya of Joint Task Force Basilan said troops from the 13th Scout Ranger Company were patrolling Abong-Abong peak in Sumisip town when the explosion took place at past 8 a.m.
Five of the soldiers were in “critical condition” after the blast, prompting the military to deploy two helicopters to airlift the casualties to a hospital in Zamboanga City, Visaya added.
Visaya said the blast took place 800 meters away from an Abu Sayyaf camp seized by government troops last March, leading the military to believe that the bandit group could be behind the explosion.
Meanwhile, Philippine Army spokesperson Major Harold Cabunoc said pursuit operations are ongoing against the perpetrators.
The Abu Sayyaf, which supposedly has links with terrorist organizations al Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiyah, has been blamed for various kidnap-for-ransom and bombing activities in the southern Philippine island of Mindanao, as well as in Metro Manila. — with Andreo Calonzo/RSJ, GMA News