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1 dead, 26 soldiers injured in Basilan town explosion

, / 02:26 PM April 10, 2012

ISABELA, Philippines—A powerful booby trap bomb killed 1 and wounded 26 soldiers, five of them critically, as they patrolled a former stronghold of Al-Qaeda-linked militants in Sumisip town, Basilan Tuesday, the military said.

Western Mindanao Command’s Lieutenant Colonel Randolph Cabangbang said the soldier was dead on arrival at Ciudad Medical in Zamboanga City.

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Five who were critically injured were also at the said hospital.  Seven were brought to Camp Navarro General Hospital in Zamboanga City, while 14 others, who were slightly wounded, were on their way to CGNH via Navy vessel, he added.

The soldiers from the 13th Scout Ranger Company were patrolling the outskirts of a remote camp captured last month from Abu Sayyaf extremists in Abong Abong peak, Mahalatang village when the device went off, Army’s 104th Brigade commander Colonel Ricardo Visaya said.

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The soldiers suffered shrapnel wounds, Visaya said.

The Abong Abong peak was once an Abu Sayyaf stronghold before its camp there was overrun by troops from the 4th Scout Ranger Batallion, said Western Mindanao Commander Major General Noel Coballes.

“The [Abu Sayyaf] designed the area to be impenetrable,” Coballes said.

Visaya said the Abu Sayyaf had formerly used the camp to hide many of their kidnap victims until a large military assault dislodged the rebels in March.

“The camp had a lot of improvised explosive devices planted around it… to strengthen (the extremists’) defensive position. They are very difficult to detect,” he said.

Visaya described the device as an old booby trap left behind by the Abu Sayyaf before they abandoned the camp and was set off when soldiers tripped on it.

Helicopters were deployed to airlift the wounded to a military hospital, Visaya said.

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Pursuit operations led by Special Operations Task Force Colonel Ramon Yogyog were now conducted against the rebels, Visaya said.

“While our current priority is to our wounded soldiers, efforts to clear the area of ASG along with their landmines and improvised explosive devices will continue in order to ensure that civilians who would want access to Abong Abong for farming are assure of their safety,” said Coballes.

The heavily-forested island of Basilan is a known stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf, a group founded with seed money from Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden in the 1990s.

The group has been blamed for the worst terror attacks in Philippine history and has frequently resorted to kidnapping to raise funds, often targeting foreigners.

Seven foreigners—a Dutchman, a Swiss national, an Australian, two Malaysian traders, an Indian and a Japanese man—are believed to still be held by the Abu Sayyaf and other outlawed groups in the south.

US troops have been based in the southern Philippines for a decade to help train local soldiers in hunting the Abu Sayyaf.

Originally posted at 01:08 pm | Tuesday, April 10, 2012

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TAGS: Acts of terror, Al qaeda, Armed conflict, Basilan, Terrorism
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