SULU, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / July 27, 2008) – At least two government soldiers were reported wounded in a clash Sunday with unidentified gunmen in the southern Philippine island of Pangutaran off Sulu province.
The Philippine military did not give any statement about the fighting and spokesmen and security officials ignored calls by journalists who were verifying the reports. Two Marine soldiers were injured in the clash on the island where pirates and Abu Sayyaf militants were believed to be hiding.
Sulu Gov. Sakur Tan said there is an ongoing military operation in Pangutaran after local leaders sought the help of the military to run after pirates and criminals, including the Abu Sayyaf who were behind extortion activities and attacks on trawlers and small fishermen at sea.
"We are supporting the ongoing military and police operation aimed at neutralizing the lawless elements," Tan told the Mindanao Examiner.
Police said it would deploy more forces on the island to secure civilians and protect them from possible attacks by lawless groups. "We will send more police forces in Pangutaran and enforce law and order on the island," Senior Superintendent Julasirim Kasim, the provincial police chief, said in a separate interview.
Kasim said he would replace the current police chief on the island.
The fighting occurred as politicians running for the August 11 elections in the Muslim autonomous region are campaigning. Sulu is one of five provinces that comprise the autonomous region.
Piracy is rampant in Sulu Sea where trawlers and ferries had been attacked in the past by gunmen. (Mindanao Examiner)