Saturday, April 17, 2010

Troops hunt down Sayyaf in Basilan province

Soldiers guard a village in Isabela City in Muslim autonomous province of Basilan in the southern Philippines. Security forces continue to hunt down Abu Sayyaf militants blamed for deadly attacks Tuesday that left 14 people dead in the largely Christian city. (Mindanao Examiner Photo)

BASILAN, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / April 17, 2010) – Security forces continue hunt down Abu Sayyaf militants blamed for deadly attacks in the restive Muslim province of Basilan in the southern Philippines, police said Saturday.

Troops on Friday battled the Abu Sayyaf in Isabela City and killed three militants near the village of Mesola. Soldiers also detonated an improvised explosive left behind by the Abu Sayyaf blamed for Tuesday’s twin bombings in the largely Christian city.

“There is an operation going on and we are not letting our guards down. We have deployed more police forces to guard vital government installations and protect the civilians,” said Senior Superintendent Antonio Mendoza, the provincial police chief.

Militants on Tuesday detonated bombs and opened fire on civilians fleeing the attacks, but police and military authorities were investigating reports that a politician running for governor in the Basilan could have masterminded the carnage.

The reports linked Mujiv Hataman to the attacks which allegedly targeted another gubernatorial candidate Joel Maturan, the mayor of Ungkaya Pukan town, and his mayoralty candidate Edwin Pantaleta – both were said to be the local favorites.

Hataman denied all the accusations against him and urged authorities to investigate the bombings. Two militants captured in Tuesday’s firefight are now being interrogated by the military in Zamboanga City.

Abu Sayyaf militants in the past were also reported to have been hired by politicians to assassinate their rivals.

Last year, the Abu Sayyaf detonated a roadside bomb in a failed assassination of Governor Sakur Tan, of Sulu province. Two militants captured by the police admitted they were hired by Tan’s political foes to kill him.

In November 2007, suspected Abu Sayyaf militants who were allegedly hired by two politicians in Basilan also detonated a bomb planted at the entrance of the Philippine Congress and killed Representative Wahab Akbar, a former Basilan governor, and three other people. (Mindanao Examiner)

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