MANILA — Philippine army special forces and police killed 13 suspected criminals in a fierce gunbattle yesterday on the main northern island of Luzon in the latest violence to erupt in the country in the last week.
A police officer was wounded in the shootout, which raged for 20 minutes in the coastal town of Atimonan in Quezon province, about 140 kilometers (100 miles) southeast of Manila, the capital.
The gunmen, who were riding in two black SUVs, opened fire on more than 50 army soldiers and police when they were flagged down at a highway checkpoint in Atimonan, sparking the firefight, said Lt. Col. Monico Abang, who led the army platoon in the clash. Gunmen also fired from a third van but turned around and managed to escape, he said.
Two gunmen jumped out of one of the SUVs and fired from a roadside canal. The rest stayed in the two vehicles, which were raked by troops with gunfire in the sparsely populated stretch of the highway, Abang said. The area was closed off to traffic after the gunbattle.
11 dead on clash scene
Quezon provincial police chief Valeriano de Leon said 11 gunmen died at the scene of the clash. Two others died while being brought to a hospital, he said, adding that government forces recovered two assault rifles and eight pistols used by the gunmen.
“They rolled down their windows and started firing, so we had to retaliate,” Abang said by cellphone from the scene of the clash. “They were clearly outnumbered and outgunned.”
A police colonel was shot in the hand and foot and taken to a hospital, de Leon said./ap