Fighting Erupts In Basilan Island

August 6, 2007 at 9:00 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / 06 Aug) – Filipino soldiers clashed Monday with Abu Sayyaf militants, tagged as behind the beheading of ten Marines in the southern island of Basilan, officials said.

Officials said the fighting erupted in the hinterland village of Sungkayat in Ungkaya Pukan town after marine soldiers attacked the hideout of the militant group tied to al-Qaeda.

The fighting lasted for 15 minutes, but sporadic clashes were reported later in the day. There were no immediate reports of casualties, officials said.

Officials said troops, from the Marine Battalion Landing Team-8, clashed with the group of Abu Sayyaf sub-leader Indama Puruji, who was implicated in the beheading of the soldiers, who were among 14 killed in fierce fighting with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) July 10 in the town of Al-Barka.

The MILF, which is currently negotiating peace with Manila, denied beheading the soldiers and pointed to the Abu Sayyaf as behind the gruesome killings.

Police filed murder charges against 130 mostly MILF rebels and the military threatened to launch punitive action if the group do not surrender the murders.

Some 3,000 soldiers are backing 300 policemen in serving the arrest warrants, but the MILF said it would not yield any of its members and insisted the fighting was a legitimate encounter after the marines entered a rebel territory.

More than 6,900 people, mostly Muslims, fled their homes since last month for fear they would be trapped if fighting erupts in Basilan island.

Defense officials on Monday met behind closed door with the mayors and governors of Basilan and Jolo islands inside a military base in Zamboanga City to plan about helping those who fled their villages.

President Gloria Arroyo sent a team of medical doctors to Basilan island to help the evacuees, but warned rebels not to harm them.

“Harm them and Hades will come to you,” Arroyo said in Manila.

In Greek mythology, Hades, god of the dead, was a fearsome figure to those who are still living and simply to say the word “Hades” was frightening.

”These medical professionals are on a mission of compassion. They will treat people whose lives you have worsened by your belligerence when the peace we have pursued would have allowed them to join the rest of the nation in productive pursuits,” she said, referring to Moro rebels.

The MILF is the largest Muslim rebel group fighting for independence in the troubled, but mineral-rich region of Mindanao.
(Mark Navales and Juan Magtanggol)

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