BASILAN, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Apr. 16, 2011) – Government troops clashed with Abu Sayyaf militants on Saturday killing two gunmen in the restive southern Filipino province of Basilan, officials said.
Officials said three militants and three soldiers were also wounded in the firefight that erupted at around 6.15 a.m. in the town of Al-Barka, also a known stronghold of the secessionist Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels who are currently negotiating peace with Manila.
Security forces were patrolling the village when they ran into a group of Abu Sayyaf militants and a running gun battle erupted.
Troops also recovered five Abu Sayyaf automatic rifles and that helicopters were dispatched to provide cover to ground troops pursuing the militants.
“We are pursuing the Abu Sayyaf in the hinterlands,” said Colonel Alex Macario, commander of military forces in Basilan, one of five provinces under the Muslim autonomous region.
He said soldiers clashed with about 15 Abu Sayyaf fighters under Nur Hassan Jamiri, but it was not immediately known whether the notorious leader was with the group or not.
Last week, suspected Abu Sayyaf militants detonated a powerful bomb at a lodging house in Basilan’s Lamitan City and planted two more improvised explosives in nearby Isabela City.
Military agents said a woman was taken into custody for questioning in connection to the attack. And another man who is believed to be her accomplish was also being hunted by soldiers.
The Abu Sayyaf is still holding a local trader Larry Tam delos Santos who was kidnapped in December in Isabela City. Two other victims who were kidnapped in Zamboanga City and Zamboanga Sibugay province have been reported to be in the province, just several nautical miles south of here.
Authorities have blamed the Abu Sayyaf for the string of terrorism and kidnappings for ransom in the western part of Mindanao. (Mindanao Examiner)