Army confirms 2 women killed in operations vs Abu Sayyaf in Lamitan City
ZAMBOANGA CITY – The military has admitted that soldiers killed two women – one of them an elderly — and wounded several others in its clash with Abu Sayyaf bandits last Monday, in Lamitan City.
In a statement issued about 15 hours after the raid, 1Lt. Sally Christine Prima, the military’s spokesman in Basilan, said the “civilian casualties” were relatives of Abu Sayyaf members Totong Ujong and Nurhassan Lahaman.
Prima said the civilians “participated and provided cover during the encounter against the government forces.”
Earlier, Maj. Gen. Demy Tejares, commander of the Joint Task Force Zambasulta, said elements of the 13th Scout Ranger Company were providing back up support to the Lamitan Police – headed by Insp. Insp. Gean Gallardo – in serving a warrant of arrest against Lahaman in Barangay Bohe Ibu on Monday when they clashed with Abu Sayyaf bandits.
Lahaman is an Abu Sayyaf member under Nurhassan Jamiri, according to Tejares.
Prima said as the soldiers were entering the village, they were met with gunfire around 5:42 a.m.
“The government forces, while approaching the objective, was met by heavy volume of fire coming from the enemy… However, government forces were able to return fire and out-maneuvered the well-established defense position of the enemy, which ensued for about fifteen (15) minutes,” she said.
Prima said after the clash, two civilians were killed and several others were wounded.
Maklimar Mamang, Bohe Ibu chair, identified the slain civilians as Ananang Ujong, 30; and Amparing Acalul, 65.
Mamang said Ujong’s husband, Totong, 31, and her children – aged 10 and 12, were also injured in the raid.
But he denied that there were any Abu Sayyaf members in the village, about five kilometers away from Lamitan proper.
“Since I was a child, I have not heard of any encounter here between the Abu Sayyaf and government forces. There is no Abu Sayyaf here, but family feud or rido is very common in our place,” Mamang told the Philippine Daily Inquirer by phone.
He said that at the height of the raid, the soldiers had prevented village officials from entering Sitio Tamara, where the slain civilians resided.
He said based on the accounts of survivors, the firing was indiscriminate.
“First, there was no heavy encounter between two armed groups, there’s no ASG here. Second, they launched a raid and killed two innocent women. They committed errors, their assets may have provided them with false information,” Mamang said.
Gallardo said when the police arrived in the community, the Scout Ranger soldiers were already engaged in a firefight.
He said when the gunfire stopped and they searched the area, they saw the two dead women.
Gallardo said the raid was prompted by a report that armed men were roaming the village.
“At about 3 a.m. of same date, government troops left from the 3rd Scout Ranger Battalion in Campo Uno in Lamitan City, Basilan, and upon arrival at Bohe Ibu, the rangers were able to encounter the (lawless) group, fire fights started at 6 a.m.,” a post-incident report that Gallardo sent to the Basilan provincial police office reads.
He said soldiers were able “to penetrate the temporary place of encampment (of the armed group), where several fox holes were discovered at the said place. The encounter ended at about 8:30 a.m. of same date,” he added.
Mamang said the Ujongs were workers in his family’s coconut farm and were not Abu Sayyaf bandits or supporters.
Lahaman, on the other hand, has a standing rido against the Hamja family – which is reportedly close to the military and police, according to Mamang.
Mamang said he was demanding an investigation and the filing of charges against those responsible for the deaths of the two civilians and the wounding of the three others. SFM
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