Monday, October 24, 2011

Troops, MILF rebels battle in Zamboanga province

A Moro Islamic Liberation Front reads the Koran at a jungle base in Mindanao. (Mindanao Examiner Photo)


ZAMBOANGA CITY (Mindanao Examiner / Oct. 24, 2011) – At least 8 soldiers and Muslim rebels were killed and over 40 others wounded in fighting Monday in the southern Philippine province of Zamboanga Sibugay, officials said.

Officials said two soldiers and six Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters were killed in clashes in Payao town where troops launched a major offensive aimed at flushing out several rebel leaders accused as behind the spate of kidnappings and killings in Mindanao.

Four soldiers and about 40 rebels were reported wounded in the fighting, said Army Lt. Col. Randolph Cabangbang, a spokesman for the Western Mindanao Command. “We have reports from the ground that six rebels and 40 others were wounded in the military assault,” he said.

He said military planes hit MILF bunkers and machine gun emplacements in the remote village of Labatan where a wanted senior rebel leader Wanning Abdusalam is believed to be hiding.

Abdusalam was also linked to the July kidnappings of US woman Gerfa Yeatts Lunsmann, 50, who was seized along with her 14-year old son, Kevin Erik Lunsmann, and nephew Romnick Jackaria, 19, from their house on Tictabon Island in Zamboanga City.

He was accused as among those who kidnapped Filipino nurse Mary Cuartocruz in December last year in the village of Manicahan in Zamboanga City. Abdusalam was also implicated in the 2007 kidnapping of Italian missionary Giancarlo Bossi in the town of Payao.

Security forces are also pursing MILF rebels blamed for the killing of 19 soldiers in fierce battle in Basilan province last week. The soldiers were sent to the town of Al-Barka, a known stronghold of the MILF, for a test mission.

The MILF blamed the clashes to the military and said troops broke the cease-fire agreement by launching an operation against the rebels despite ongoing peace talks, but security officials said troops were sent to the town to arrest a rebel leader Dan Asnawi, who was accused in the series of attacks and kidnappings for ransom in Basilan. (Mindanao Examiner)

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