5 dead as PH troops, Abu suspects clash in Bohol
Five people including a police officer were killed Tuesday in clashes with 10 suspected members of the Abu Sayyaf kidnap group on the resort island of Bohol, authorities said.
Five bodies have been recovered at the scene of the fighting, Philippine military spokesman Brigadier-General Restituto Padilla said on ABS-CBN television in Manila.
The Associated Press, citing military and police officials, however, reported at least 6 fatalities.
At least one policeman was confirmed killed in the fight, national police spokesman Senior Superintendent Dionardo Carlos said in a statement.
“Security forces reported that the armed group is well-armed with heavy-caliber weapons, but now cornered in an isolated section” of Bohol, Philippine military chief of staff General Eduardo Año said in a statement.
Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) public affairs chief Edgard Arevalo said elements from the Army, the Bohol Provincial Office, and the Regional Public Safety Battalion were acting on “received intelligence information” in its operation against a group of men “well-armed with heavy caliber weapons.”
The firefight happened as the United States Embassy in Manila, citing “unsubstantiated yet credible information,” warned Americans in the Philippines against kidnapping threats by terror groups in Central Visayas, particularly Cebu and Bohol.
“The security operation was launched in relation to the monitored presence of ten (10) armed men with three pump boats along the riverside of So Ilaya, Barangay (village) Napo in the area of Inabanga, Bohol. The information came from alert residents and other citizens who were watching over their respective communities. Security forces reported that the armed group is well armed with heavy caliber weapons but now cornered in an isolated section of the sitio,” Arevalo said in a statement.
“Additional forces from the Army, Air Force and the Navy are now onsite to assist engaged AFP personnel and law enforcers. Fire fight is still ongoing as of this time,” he added.
The incursion would be the first on the tourist island by the Abu Sayyaf, which has long engaged in kidnapping for ransom — often targeting foreigners.
The group, also blamed for deadly bombings, has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State movement that holds large swathes of Iraq and Syria.
The gunmen sailed into the Bohol town of Inabanga on Monday, going upriver toward a remote section of the island aboard three fast boats, Inabanga police officer Edwin Melicor told Agence France-Presse by telephone.
A clash broke out as police went to investigate early Tuesday, Melicor added.
The Philippine National Police, through its Dir. Gen. Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa, earlier confirmed terrorist threats to kidnap tourists in Central Visayas but assured the public that government security forces were on top of the situation. Following the US Embassy’s travel advisory, the Australian government also advised its citizens in the country to exercise a “high degree of caution” due to “high threat of terrorist attack and the high level of crime.” With a report from the Associated Press/rga
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.