ZAMBOANGA CITY (Al Jacinto / Jan. 22, 2013) – Suspected Abu Sayyaf rebels on Tuesday ambushed a group of government soldiers and wounding 7 in the troubled province of Basilan in the southern Philippines, officials said.
Officials said the attack triggered a 20 gun battle in the town of Ungkaya Pukan.
“The fire fight lasted for 20 minutes. The wounded soldiers were evacuated to military hospital in Zamboanga City,” Col. Rodrigo Gregorio, a spokesman for the Western Mindanao Command, told the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner.
He said the ambush occurred at around 7.40 a.m. in the village of Bohe Pahu and came a day after the Philippine Army and Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels in Basilan held a peace pact.
“We suspect that this is the handiwork of peace spoilers, particularly the Abu Sayyaf rebels who wanted to destroy the significant headway that we achieved from the successful meetings with the MILF on January 4 and January 21,” Gregorio said.
“The Abu Sayyaf wanted to make a strong statement that they are still round and wanted the Armed Forces to act indiscriminately and impair the ongoing peace talks between the Philippine government and the MILF,” he added, referring to the ambush.
He said the 104th Infantry Brigade in Basilan will coordinate closely with the MILF and provincial authorities to address the peace and order situation in the Muslim province.
“The 104th Infantry Brigade will act prudently and observe maximum restraint while planning jointly with the local government and MILF on how we can finally eradicate the Abu Sayyaf menace and violent attacks that greatly affect the relative peace that we had achieved from the Bangsamoro agreement,” Gregorio said.
The Aquino government and the MILF, which is fighting for self-determination, signed an accord in October last year that will pave the way for the creation of the Bangsamoro homeland which shall be comprised of Basilan, Sulu, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao and Tawi-Tawi provinces, including the cities of Marawi and Lamitan.
The Abu Sayyaf is a small, but the most violent rebel group in the southern Philippines and has been largely blamed by authorities for the spate of terrorism and kidnappings for ransom; and tied by the police and military to al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiya. (Mindanao Examiner)