The Philippine Air Force (PAF) carried out air strikes on Friday in Lamitan City in Basilan province as a firefight erupted between government troops and combined forces from two Moro rebel groups and the Abu Sayyaf.
Army troops in Basilan have been fighting rebels from the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) faction led by Nur Misuari, insurgents from the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and Abu Sayyaf bandits since Thursday.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines said the air strike was launched in Barangay Colonia at around 10 a.m. on Friday.
AFP spokesperson Brig. Gen. Domingo Tutaan said that two Air Force MG 520 attack helicopters provided “close air support” to the Army troops.
The local government of Basilan ordered a forced evacuation of residents in five villages in Lamitan—Bulanting, Campo Uno, Colonia, Cabobo, and Balobo—before the Air Force launched the air attacks.
Around 120 families or 2,000 people have been evacuated, according to the Office of Civil Defense in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
At least four soldiers were wounded in yesterday’s fighting in Colonia village, according to Acting Gov. Mujiv Hataman of the ARMM.
Hataman said the gunmen attacked at around 10 a.m. and withdrew an hour later.
But they attacked again at around 2 p.m., prompting the government to use air strikes, Hataman said. With reports from Julie S. Alipala, Karlos Manlupig and Dennis Jay Santos, Inquirer Mindanao