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5 Dead, 29 Injured In Basilan Clash Vs Abu Sayyaf

Three Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) and two soldiers were killed Friday in a day-long gun battle between government troops and the Al-Qaeda-linked extremists blamed for beheading and kidnappings in the southern Philippines, the military said.

“As of this time, 29 WIA (soldiers wounded in action) and two KIA (soldiers killed in action). Enemy, three killed,” military spokesman Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala said in a brief statement.

The clash erupted in Barangay Silangkum in Tipo-Tipo town at around 2 a.m., the military said.

Capt. Rowena Muyuela, spokesperson of the Armed Forces’ Western Mindanao Command (Wesmincom), said the injured soldiers were airlifted to Camp Navarro General Hospital in Zamboanga.

Tipo-tipo, Basilan Police Chief Inspector Munib Musa said they have yet to identify the 3 casualties from the Abu Sayyaf.

Zagala said 4 injured soldiers decided to stay behind and rejoin the operation.

He said around 200 soldiers from the Philippine Army’s 104th Infantry Brigade and Joint Special Operations Group were conducting a strike operation to apprehend ASG commander Furuji Indama when the firefight erupted.

He said Indama is the Abu Sayyaf commander behind the series of attacks at a rubber plantation in Maluso town and several kidnapping incidents in the region.

P3.3M bounty

Indama has a P3.3 million bounty on his head.

”This is a deliberate operation on the presence of ASG leader Furuji Indama. It’s a strike operation because there was information of his whereabouts,” Zagala told ANC.

Brig. Gen. Carlito Galvez, commander of the 104th Brigade, said the firefight moved to Barangay Baguindan, where the ASG has occupied school buildings.

The Wesmincom said bandits have occupied the Baguindan Elementary School. No hostages were taken.

Indama was part of the ASG group that killed 14 Marines in the Al-Barka ambush in 2007. Ten of the Marines were beheaded.

Indama’s current group is a band of some 20 men, but military is not discounting the possibility that their relatives and sympathizers will join the fight.

Musa said residents of Barangay Baguindan were displaced due to the violence. The residents, he said, are now stranded since they cannot cross to the adjacent village.

He said he is still trying to contact the barangay chairman of Baguindan to confirm the number of families displaced.

The clashes between the two sides were ongoing, as of posting.

Al-Qaeda link

The Abu Sayyaf is a self-styled Islamic militant group which was set up in the 1990s with seed money from the late Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda network.

It has been blamed for the worst terror attacks in the country’s history including bombings.

Abu Sayyaf members are also believed to have been involved in the kidnapping of a Chinese tourist and a Filipina worker from a Malaysian dive resort on April 2.

It is thought that the hostages have been hidden on the southern Philippine island of Jolo.

The islands of Jolo and Basilan, which are about 70 kilometers apart, are both known strongholds of the group.

Zagala said the Basilan operation was not linked to the kidnapping in Malaysia.

-ABS-CBN News

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