Tuesday, September 25, 2007

3 Wounded In Basilan Clash

BASILAN ISLAND, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / 25 Sept) - Government forces clashed with a group of gunmen on Tuesday in the southern Philippine island of Basilan, leaving three people wounded, police said.

Police said sporadic fighting between soldiers and gunmen were reported in the villages of Baguindan and Silangkum, all in Tipo-Tipo town, a known stronghold of the Muslim separatist rebels Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

“Two gunmen and a high school student are wounded in the fighting in Tipo-Tipo town and we have deployed police forces in the area to secure the civilians,” said Superintendent Salik Macapantar, the provincial police chief.

Macapantar said the student was hit with a stray bullet while the two wounded gunmen managed to escape. He said the hostilities broke out after patrolling security forces ran into a group of armed men and a firefight ensued.

“There are no reports of military casualties,” he told the Mindanao Examiner.

Macapantar would not say if the gunmen were MILF rebels or Abu Sayyaf militants. “We cannot say whether the gunmen are rebels or Abu Sayyaf, except that the area is a known sanctuary of the MILF,” he said.

Security forces were pursuing Abu Sayyaf militants in Basilan island, blamed for the beheading in July of ten Marines in Al-Barka town near Tipo-Tipo.

The MILF did not say if the gunmen were rebels or not. The MILF is the country’s largest Muslim rebel group fighting for the establishment of a strict Islamic state similar to Iran.

Manila opened up peace talks with the MILF in 2001 and both sides signed a cease-fire agreement, but despite the truce fighting still continue in some areas in the southern Philippines. (Mindanao Examiner)

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