12 soldiers killed in Basilan clash, says military
ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines—At least 12 soldiers were confirmed dead when government troops and Moro Islamic Liberation Front forces, who were involved in the 2007 beheading of Marine soldiers, clashed in Albarkah, Basilan starting early morning Tuesday, a military spokesperson.
The rebels also suffered undetermined casualties in the clash, which was ongoing as of late Tuesday, in Barangay Cambug, according to Lt. Col Randolph Cabangbang, spokesperson of the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) here.
Cabangbang said 11 soldiers were wounded and 10 others reported missing as of late Tuesday.
Col. Jose Johriel Cenabre, deputy commander for Marine operations of the Naval Forces in Western Mindanao, earlier said the clash was in Barangay Kailih and had left six MILF rebels dead and several others wounded, including commander Dan Laksaw Asnawi.
Cabangbang said soldiers were checking on the reported presence of armed men in the area when they encountered the MILF rebels under Asnawi.
He described Asnawi’s group as among MILF rebels involved in the beheading of 14 Marines in Barangay Ginanta, also in Albarkah, in 2007.
Asnawi, he said, was arrested in the aftermath of the beheading but managed to escape from the Basilan provincial jail in December 2009.
Mohagher Iqbal, MILF chief negotiator, said Army troops attacked Asnawi’s forces.
Asnawi, he said, is a commander under the MILF’s 114th Base Command in Basilan.
Iqbal said soldiers, under the guise of enforcing a warrant against Asnawi, stormed the MILF camp in Albarkah.
He said the MILF rebels held their ground and killed 22 of the attackers.
“This attack of the government forces blatantly violated the existing ceasefire accord between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and MILF, which only overstates the insincerity of the government and its armed forces with the ongoing peace process and ceasefire,” Iqbal said.
Under the peace process, Iqbal said military operations against individuals wanted by law should be properly coordinated with the MILF.
He said the MILF will be filing complaints before the ceasefire committees because of the incident.
Iqbal said the Basilan clash was not the first violation that the military has committed this month amid the ongoing peace process.
He said that on Oct. 15, Army troops also attacked MILF forces in Payao, Zamboanga Sibugay.
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