BASILAN, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / July 29, 2008) – Police and soldiers foiled an Abu Sayyaf raid Tuesday on a small town in the southern Philippine island of Basilan, where security forces are battling militants tied to Jemaah Islamiya.
Security forces briefly battled some 100 Abu Sayyaf gunmen, backed by Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels near Tipo-Tipo town. The gunmen retreated after more soldiers arrived in the town to reinforce a small police team holding back the militants.
“There were no reports of casualties, but the Abu Sayyaf and MILF rebels tried to enter the town,” Senior Superintendent Salik Macapantar, the island’s police chief, told the Mindanao Examiner.
He said he deployed more policemen to Tipo-Tipo to beef up security forces in the town. Policemen last week also seized a motorcycle allegedly owned by the Abu Sayyaf at a checkpoint in Tipo-Tipo town, but it was not immediately known if it was connected to the foiled raid.
Police tagged Nurhassan Jamiri, a leader of the Abu Sayyaf and Commander Long, of the MILF, as behind the failed attack. The two had been previously linked to kidnapping and attacks on soldiers in Basilan island, a known stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf group.
The MILF has previously denied involvements in past attacks and pointed to the Abu Sayyaf as behind the spate of terrorism on the island, several nautical miles south of Zamboanga City.
Last year, Abu Sayyaf and MILF rebels killed and decapitated dozens of soldiers in Basilan after false military intelligence reports led them astray inside rebel territories in Al-Barka town where a kidnapped Italian priest Giancarlo Bossi was being held.
Bossi was freed by MILF rebels in Lanao province in exchange for a huge government ransom. (Mindanao Examiner)