ZAMBOANGA CITY (Mindanao Examiner / 18 Jan) – Moro rebels ambushed a military convoy, killing one soldier and wounding seven more on the island of Jolo, south of the Philippines, where security forces are battling Abu Sayyaf militants, a regional army spokesman said on Sunday.
Six of the attackers, who are members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), had been captured by soldiers after a firefight that left one soldier dead, said Major Eugene Batara.
“Seven of our soldiers are wounded in the ambush perpetrated by the MNLF rebels in Parang town. The attack sparked fierce clashes that left one soldier dead. Six more rebels have been captured and are undergoing interrogation,” Batara told the Mindanao Examiner in Zanmboanga City.
He said the soldiers were onboard three military trucks on their way to replace troops pursuing the Abu Sayyaf when the rebels ambushed them on Saturday in the village of Langpas Saldang in Parang town.
Batara said the motive of the attack was unknown. Other reports said the rebels ambushed the convoy in retaliation to the Thursday killing of 10 gunmen, mistaken as Abu Sayyaf militants, in Timpook village in Patikul town by marine soldiers. Two gunmen were also captured by soldiers.
The military earlier said those killed were members of the Abu Sayyaf group tied to al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiya. Three soldiers were also slain in the fighting. Officials claimed the fighting broke out after soldiers caught up with a band of Abu Sayyaf gunmen in the village.
Batara said they were checking the reports with the Philippine Marines.
More troops had been sent to the troubled island to help security forces fighting the Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiya militants. Security officials previously said that as many as six Indonesian militants are hiding in Jolo, including Dulmatin and Umar Patek, who were both suspected of playing a role in the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 mostly foreigners.
But Jolo island is also a stronghold of the MNLF, which signed a peace accord with Manila in September 1996, however, many rebels were dissatisfied with the agreement because of the government’s failure to uplift their living standards.
Many MNLF rebels joined the Abu Sayyaf and the larger separatist group, Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which is fighting for an independent Islamic state in the south.
Fighting had previously erupted between security and MNLF forces that left dozens of soldiers and dead the past years.
Last week, Filipino troops, guided by U.S. military intelligence, raided an Abu Sayyaf hideout on Bud Dajo (also called Mount Daho) in Jolo’s Talipao town, south of Patikul, and killed a senior militant leader, Jainal Antel Sali, Jr. alias Abu Solaiman.
Both the Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiya are included in the U.S. list of international terrorist organizations, blamed for the kidnappings of foreigners and spate of bombings in the Philippines and Indonesia. (Mindanao Examiner)