ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines -Two government soldiers, including an Army major, were killed while four others were wounded when ambushed by suspected Abu Sayyaf bandits in Al Barka town in Basilan on Monday afternoon.
Colonel Carlito Galvez, chief of the 104th Army Brigade, said the bandits ambushed some 100 soldiers, civilians and representatives of the Office of the Presidential Adviser to the Peace Process who were on their way to the village of Bohe Piyang village for a livestock dispersal activity.
“The group was trapped in one area because one of the armored vehicles got stuck in mud. When one of the officers went out to check what had happened, he was hit by sniper fire,” Galvez said referring to Maj. Alih Jan Kannung, who was integrated from the Moro National Liberation Front.
“The snipers made sure to hit Kannung in parts of his body that was not covered by the bullet-proof vest,” Galvez said.
Kannung earlier sought for his transfer to 32nd Infantry Battalion as executive officer as his son was studying in Lamitan City. He was one of Galvez’s security and peace advisers.
“He is a big loss to the Armed Forces. A great man whose dream was to see Basilan prosper in peace,” Galvez said.
Galvez said Kannung was instrumental in “patching up” differences between the military and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, and the resolution of at least 18 ridos (clan wars).
Galvez identified the other fatality as Technical Sgt. Ferdinand Costan.
“The suspects fired mortars– that’s the reason it took some time for us to get the wounded,” he said.
Galvez said the government soldiers, led Lt. Col. Paolo Perez, chief of the 18th IB, managed to be on the offensive when reinforcements from the Moro National Liberation Front and the MILF arrived.
“Nakabawi sila and were able to hit back. Six Abu Sayyaf were killed, but only two bodies were recovered,” he said.