Top Sayyaf Leader, Son Wounded In Clash In Southern Philippines

July 12, 2007 at 12:07 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Philippine troops load onto a truck on Wednesday July 11, 2007 the bodies of Philippine Marines who were killed Tuesday in a clash with Abu Sayyaf and Moro Islamic Liberation Front Muslim insurgents while searching for a kidnapped Italian priest at the volatile island province of Basilan in southern Philippines. Troops recovered the bodies of 14 marines, ten of them mutilated, in one of the bloodiest fights this year, which erupted on Al-Barka town. Basilan island military chief Marines Col. Ramiro Alivio said some 500 militants ambushed the heavily outnumbered soldiers. (Mindanao Examiner Photo Service)


BASILAN ISLAND (Mindanao Examiner / 11 Jul) – Philippine soldiers have wounded a senior leader of the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf group and his son in fierce clashes in Basilan island that left dozens of soldiers and militants dead and wounded.

Marines Col. Ramiro Alivio, the island’s military chief, told the Mindanao Examiner that troops shot Isnilon Hapilon and one his son in Tuesday fighting in the town of Al-Barka, where Abu Sayyaf militants, backed by Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels, killed 14 government soldiers and wounded nine others.

Isnilon is on the terror lists of the Philippines and United States and was implicated in the kidnappings of U.S. citizens and foreigners in the restive South.

Military spokesmen in Manila said ten of the soldiers were decapitated. The bodies were brought to a military base in Zamboanga City, where it would be given honors, said Maj. Eugene Batara, spokesman of the Western Mindanao Command.

“Lt. Gen. (Eugenio) Cedo wants a full military honor for the fallen soldiers,” Batara said in a separate interview late Wednesday.Batara was referring to Cedo, who is the chief of the Western Mindanao Command.

Alivio said troops were tracking down Hapilon in the jungle of Basilan, where a kidnapped Italian Catholic priest Giancarlo Bossi is believed being held captive by the Abu Sayyaf and MILF forces.

“We have intelligence reports that said Isnilon Hapilon and his son are wounded in the fighting.

Troops are tracking him down,” Alivio said.The MILF, which is currently negotiating peace with Manila, said the fighting broke out after government forces sneaked inside a known rebel territory.

Mohagher Iqbal, the MILF chief peace negotiator, said marine soldiers encroached inside their stronghold, sparking daylong clashes that left as many as 20 government troops dead. Four MILF fighters were also killed and four more wounded, he said.

Alivio said at least 30 Abu Sayyaf and MILF gunmen were killed in the clashes. “It is a conservative estimate, but villagers and intelligence reports said there could be more enemy casualties.”

He said the soldiers were checking reports that the clergy, kidnapped on June 10 in Zamboanga Sibugay province, was sighted in the town. “Troops were verifying reports that Father Bossi was spotted in the area, but it turned out negative. Our forces were returning to base when they came under fire and fighting broke out,” Alivio said, adding, troops fought about 500 gunmen.

Alivio said the search for Bossi is ongoing. “We have persistent reports that Bossi is being held in Al-Barka town and the MILF is preventing us from searching the priest,” he said.
Iqbal said the fighting was between the MILF and government troops.

He accused the military of violating a six-year old fragile cease-fire accord and said the MILF would file a protest with the government peace panel about the encroachment of the soldiers.

He said rebel forces destroyed two M35 military trucks and captured another during the fighting. He said MILF fighters have also recovered five M60 machine guns, one sub-machine gun, five M-203 automatic rifles, two M-14 rifles with sniper scopes, one night vision goggle and two radio transceivers.

Alivio said the MILF has no territory in Basilan. “As far as we are concerned, there is only one authority and one government in Basilan and that is the Republic of the Philippines, not the MILF,” he said.

Acting Filipino Defense chief Norberto Gonzales has told Margherita Boniver, special envoy of the Italian government, that the 57-year old priest from Milan is being held by Abu Sayyaf militants.

But Boniver, who visited the Philippines, last week doubted the report and so was the Rome-based Pontificio Instituto Missioni Estere to which Bossi belongs. “There are other theories about the kidnappers, for example, the head of the army mentioned former members of the Islamic Liberation Front,” Boniver said.

Philippine military and police authorities in Zamboanga Sibugay have tagged Akiddin Abdusallam, a rogue MILF leader as mastermind in the kidnapping. The MILF said Abdusallam has been kicked out of the MILF long time ago because of his criminal past and has joined the Abu Sayyaf group.

The MILF, the country’s largest Muslim rebel group fighting for a separate homeland, has denied involvement in the kidnapping, but a rebel spokesman Eid Kabalu said Bossi’s captors were demanding “tens of millions of pesos” in ransom.

Last week, three undated photographs of Bossi in captivity were sent through cell phone to his friend Spanish priest Angel Calvo in Zamboanga City. The military said a former Basilan town mayor was the source of the photos. It was unclear how the former official was able to get the photos. (Mindanao Examiner)

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  1. […] seems far more interested in Philippine rebels behead 10 soldiers (see grim photos published by the Mindanao Examiner) than Filipino bloggers, particularly when it comes to commentary (simply reprinting entire news […]

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