Monday, October 24, 2011

Sayyaf behind Basilan ambush; military insists MILF attackers

A government soldier sits quietly as troops listen to their commanders in Mindanao. (Mindanao Examiner Photo)

BASILAN (Mindanao Examiner / Oct. 24, 2011) – Rubber farm workers blamed the militant group Abu Sayyaf for a deadly attack that killed 5 people and wounded eight others in the restive province of Basilan.

Gunmen ambushed a farm truck carrying workers in the village of Sapah Bulak in Sumisip town over the weekend. Most of the victims were rubber tree tappers of the Tumahubong Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Incorporated Development Cooperative.

Taha Katu, the cooperative manager, said the Abu Sayyaf was likely behind the ambush after they ignored extortion demands by the militant group. He said the Abu Sayyaf was demanding P50,000 a month from the cooperative.

“We were ignoring their demands and so now (with this attack) they discontinued the operation of the cooperative,” he told reporters.

Among those killed in the attack was a government militia and the military insisted that the Moro Islamic Liberation Front was behind the ambush and extortion was the motive behind the killings.

Army Lieutenant Colonel Randolph Cabangbang, a spokesman for the Western Mindanao Command, quoting military reports from Basilan, tagged a senior MILF leader Dan Asnawi, as behind the ambush.

“This is Asnawi’s own extortion activity and outside the sanction of the MILF,” he said.

He said Asnawi was also to blame for the killings of 19 soldiers in brutal battle last week in Al-Barka town. The soldiers were sent on a test mission to a rebel stronghold in the town to arrest Asnawi who is accused as behind the series of kidnappings for ransom and killings in Basilan, one of five provinces under the Muslim autonomous region.

The MILF said it was not involved in the ambush of farm workers. “The MILF has nothing to do with it,” Von Al-Haq, a rebel spokesman said.

The military also blamed the MILF for the recent spate of attacks in Zamboanga Sibugay and Lanao del Norte provinces that left 10 soldiers and policemen dead.

Just last month Abu Sayyaf gunmen led by Radzmer Jannatul raided the village of Upper Benengbengan in Sumisip town and killed four people and wounded 5 others. (Mindanao Examiner)

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