Friday, February 19, 2010

2 soldiers killed in Basilan blast

BASILAN, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Feb. 19, 2010) – Two government soldiers were killed in a landmine explosion Friday in the troubled province of Basilan in the southern Philippines, officials said.

Officials said one soldier was also wounded in the blast. The soldiers were searching for two kidnapped Chinese nationals in the village of Pamatsaken in Sumisip town when they tripped on the mine.

It was the second attack on soldiers this week after Abu Sayyaf militants also opened fire on a military post in Sumisip town on Monday.

“Two of our soldiers were killed and another is wounded in the blast. It is believed the landmine was planted by the Abu Sayyaf,” said First Lieutenant Steffani Cacho, a spokeswoman for the military’s Western Mindanao Command.

Abu Sayyaf militants, whose group is tied to al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiya, are holding Zi Shun Lu, 51; alias Oscar Lu; and Bo Shung Tan alias Michael Tan, 27, both from Guangzhou, China. The foreigners were kidnapped November 10 from a plywood factory in Basilan’s Maluso town along with a Filipino worker, Mark Singson, who was later beheaded after his employer Hi-Tech Wood Craft Corporation and family failed to pay ransom.

It was unknown whether the Abu Sayyaf was behind the latest attack on soldiers, but the militants are actively operating in the province. The Abu Sayyaf is demanding fifteen million pesos for the release of the two Chinese men, who are both illegally staying in Basilan, one of five provinces under the Muslim autonomous region.

The two foreigners were previously reported to be Filipino citizens, but later investigations revealed they are Chinese nationals and probably illegal workers hired by George Tan, owner of the plywood factory. The fate of the hostages is unknown.

Police said about 20 gunmen disguised as soldiers raided the factory and seized the trio.

Last year, Abu Sayyaf militants in Basilan freed six kidnapped government teachers after private negotiators paid millions of pesos in ransom. The teachers Noemi Mandi, Jocelyn Enriquez and Jocelyn Inion were released in separate places in the towns of Tipo-Tipo and Ungkaya Pukan.

The trio was kidnapped in Zamboanga Sibugay’s Naga town and brought to Basilan where they had been held captive.

Three other state teachers Janette de los Reyes, Freires Quizon and Rafael Mayonado, all kidnapped in Zamboanga City, were also brought to Basilan and freed four months later after private negotiators ransom to the Abu Sayyaf.

But a faction of the Abu Sayyaf last year also beheaded a school principal, Gabriel Canizares, in nearby Sulu province after his family failed to raise two million pesos ransom. His head was found at a petrol station in the capital town of Jolo. (Mindanao Examiner)

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