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Basilan fighting leaves 17 dead

ZAMBOANGA CITY –  The Philippine Army said 12 soldiers and five Abu Sayyaf bandits were killed in separate fighting in Basilan Thursday.

Scout Rangers clashed with Abu Sayyaf bandits in Sumisip, Basilan, on Thursday morning, leaving eight government troops and four rebels dead.

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Later in the day, four soldiers were killed  and one was wounded in an ambush in Upper Cabengbeng village in Sumisip town, the military said.

Colonel Ramon Yogyog, chief of the Joint Special Operations Task Force Basilan, said the clash broke out as troops were conducting operations against the bandit group that has been harassing plantation workers of the Tumahubong Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Integrated Development Cooperative Inc.

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“During the first hour of engagement (which started at 7:30 a.m.), we suffered two wounded rangers,” Yogyog said.

But he added fighting escalated as at least 40 armed men came as reinforcement for the bandit group initially numbering around 20.

“We matched their strength and augmented our troops and it has turned into running gunbattle as of this time,” Yogyog told the Inquirer by phone.

In in Upper Cabengbeng village in Sumisip town, first infantry division Captain Alberto Caber said troops from the 10th Scout Ranger Company and 32nd Infantry Battalion were ambushed by the bandits at about 1:30p.m. The soldiers were on their way to  Candiis detachment of the 20th Special Forces Company when attacked.

In Manila, the Army said the military operations against the bandits will continue.

“We could not allow the criminals to disturb peace, targeting the innocent civilians in a mixed Muslim-Christian community in Tumahubong village. Banditry has no place no place in a civilized world,” Army spokesman Major Harold Cabunoc said.

Violence in the southern Philippines continues despite efforts by US-trained Philippine forces to put an end to decades of bombings and ransom kidnappings by Muslim extremists in the predominantly Christian nation.

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Philippine offensives have weakened the militants but they remain a threat. They are holding several foreign hostages, apparently in an attempt to raise funds for food and weapons in their jungle hideouts. With a report from AP

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TAGS: abu sayyaf, Insurgency, Mindanao conflict, News, Regions, secessionist groups
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