Thursday, March 17, 2011

Army soldiers fire on civilian, policeman in Basilan province

A mosque by the river in Basilan province in the southern Philippines. (Mindanao Examiner Photo)

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Mar. 17, 2011) – One civilian was killed and a policeman wounded after government soldiers opened fire at them on Thursday in the restive province of Basilan in the southern Philippines, officials said.

Officials said the civilian and policeman were on a motorcycle and travelling near Tipo-Tipo town when troops attacked them. “We are investigating this incident that left one civilian dead and one policeman seriously wounded,” Senior Superintendent Alex Linesis, the provincial police chief, told the Mindanao Examiner.

The military did not give any statement about the attack, but reporters who interviewed the army commander in Basilan, Colonel Alex Macario, quoted him as saying that the target of the ambush was the Abu Sayyaf, a ruthless rebel group blamed for the spate of terrorism and kidnappings in the southern Philippines.

Macario was also saying that the target of the attack was Nat Haddalam, a village chieftain in Tipo-Tipo who is allegedly a commander of the Abu Sayyaf wanted by authorities in connection to the string of atrocities in the province, just several nautical miles south of Zamboanga City.

Haddalam was able to escape the ambush. But it was not unknown whether he and the two victims were companions or not.

Journalists in Zamboanga City phoned the army commander for comment, but he did not answer or return the calls.

The wounded policeman was brought to a military hospital in Zamboanga City, but his condition remains unknown. “We still don’t know his condition,” Lineses said.

He said the civilians died instantly from the military attack. “The civilian sustained seven gunshot wounds in his back and died on the spot,” Lineses said, adding the policeman was in his uniform when the attack occurred.

“Soldiers may have probably mistaken the two as Abu Sayyaf, but we are still trying to investigate what really happened,” he said.

The Abu Sayyaf rebels are known to use police and military uniform as a disguise in most of their attacks in Basilan, one of five provinces under the Muslim autonomous region. (Mindanao Examiner)

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