Friday, July 23, 2010

6 wounded in separate attacks in Mindanao

ILIGAN CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / July 23, 2010) – At least six people were wounded in separate attacks in the restive region of Mindanao in the southern Philippines, officials said Friday.

A grenade attack in Iligan City had left at least 5 people wounded, but radio reports said as many as 7 were injured in the blast before dawn near a police post. No group or individual claimed responsibility for the attack.

Most of the injured were civilians. Police immediately blamed the blast to criminal gangs, although previous attacks had been largely suspected on Moro rebels and extortionists.

One person was also injured after bandits opened fire on a commuter bus on the village of Muti in Zamboanga City. The attack which occurred late Thursday was largely blamed to bandits who were also linked to extortion and highway robberies.

Army Colonel Santiago Baluyot, commander of an anti-terror task force in Zamboanga City, said troops and militias were sent to the area, but did not catch up with the attackers.

“The area is isolated and troops did not catch up with the assailants. These people are bandits who were behind previous attacks on passenger buses. Failed extortion could be the motive behind the attack,” he said.

The latest attack added to the growing concerns of many locals worried about the spate of violence in at least three Zamboanga villages – Mampang, Arena Blanco and Talon-Talon – where bloody clan feuds had already claimed the lives of many people.

A village official on Mampang was killed and his companions injured after gunmen ambushed them July 13 in Zamboanga City.

The ambush came a day after a lone gunman fatally shot a jeep driver who was plying the village route in front of many people. Prior to the daring shooting, gunmen also killed several people and exploded a hand grenade in a house in Mampang.

The attack on village officials occurred just as the local peace and order council was meeting to tackle the spate of killings and gun attacks in Zamboanga. Just this month, villagers also discovered three bodies buried in a pit on a village called Mercedes. The cadavers bore stabbed wounds and its faces were covered in packing tape and one of the bodies was said to belong to a Muslim man.

Villagers were also afraid to come out in the open and tell what they know about the killings in the villages fearing reprisals from the criminals. One of the chief suspects in the murders was arrested by the police recently from his hideout in Mindoro province.

More than 100 people had been attacked by gunmen since early this year in Zamboanga City despite the presence of armed soldiers and policemen patrolling the streets. And police called these incidents isolated and government officials were quick to blame the proliferation of illegal firearms and urged authorities to intensify a campaign aimed at collecting these weapons.

Zamboanga has implemented a total gun ban the past years and despite this, the killings still go unabated, but most of the murders were perpetrated by professional killers who are actively operating in Zamboanga. (Mindanao Examiner)

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