ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines—Seven government troops were killed and eight others were injured in separate ambush incidents in Zamboanga Sibugay on Thursday evening, the provincial military commander said Friday.
The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) immediately admitted that its forces staged the ambush in Alicia and Kabasalan towns in retaliation for previous military actions there.
The fresh incidents took place barely two days after 19 soldiers were killed in a clash with MILF rebels in Basilan province.
Brigadier General Santiago Baluyot, commander of the Army’s 102nd Infantry Brigade, said the first incident took place in Barangay (village) Gulayon in Alicia town around 7:21 p.m., in which four soldiers were killed.
Five others were wounded. The soldier reported missing had been found, he said.
Baluyot said that around 9:30 p.m., soldiers traveling on a road in Ipil town, also in Zamboanga Sibugay, were fired at.
“We also suffered one wounded in that incident,” he said.
He said in the ambush in Kabasalan, which took place near midnight, another soldier was injured.
Chief Superintendent Elpidio De Asis, Western Mindanao police chief, said three policemen—including Inspector Rizaldy Calibugar of the Kabasalan police force—were killed when they were ambushed by armed men while patrolling Barangay Simbol in Kabasalan around 11:30 p.m.
He identified the two other slain policemen as Senior Police Officer 1 Lito Arcenal and Police Officer 2 Lito Tayan.
De Asis said P01 Joel Capitania and Private First Class Hermes Sagario of the 53rd Infantry Battalion, who joined the patrol, were wounded.
“The police and the Army were conducting joint operation in Zamboanga Sibugay,” he said.
Before the Kabasalan ambush took place, Baluyot said an improvised explosive device also went-off at a vacant lot near the port in Malangas town.
It appeared to be an isolated incident and had not hurt anybody, he said.
De Asis said a similar explosion also occurred in Imelda town, but no one was also hurt.
In Cotabato City, MILF spokesperson Von Al Haq said MILF rebels staged the series of ambush in Zamboanga Sibugay because the military has been pounding rebel positions in Payao town since Saturday.
“That’s the consequences of their action. It’s retaliation…part of war. Soldiers have been indiscriminately pounding our position and civilian areas in Payao town,” he said by phone.
But Al Haq said the actions of the MILF forces in Alicia and Kabasalan, who were led by Alloy, a commander under the MILF’s 114th Base Command, was not coordinated with the rebel group’s central committee.
“The action of our men was not organizational. It means the order to attack did not came from the central committee. It’s their decision,” he said.
Al Haq said the MILF’s ceasefire committee has been working with its counterpart in the government to defuse the tension in the area.
On Tuesday, 19 soldiers were killed when they clashed with MILF rebels in Al Barka, Basilan while on a mission to get MILF commander Dan Laksaw Asnawi.
The military had said Asnawi is a fugitive.
Asnawi, who operates under the MILF’s 114th Base Command, was accused of involvement in the beheading and mutilation of Marine soldiers—also in Al Barka—in 2007.
He was subsequently arrested but managed to bolt out of the Basilan provincial jail, along with more than two dozen inmates, in December 2009.
Originally posted at 9:28 a.m.