Basilan deaths rise to 12
ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines—The death toll in the fighting between Muslim rebels and soldiers in the southern Philippines has risen to 12, officials in the area said Saturday.
Over 28 soldiers were also reported wounded in running gunbattles that began on Friday in the towns of Ungkaya Pukan and Tipotipo in Basilan province between government forces and suspected Abu Sayyaf terrorists.
The latest report from the Western Mindanao Command said the casualties included five suspected Abu Sayyaf members and two government soldiers, correcting earlier reports that listed only three casualties on the side of the Islamist fighters after the military attacked their bases in Ungkaya Pukan and Tipotipo on Friday.
Capt. Jefferson Mamauag, a Philippine Army spokesperson, was quoted by Agence France-Presse as saying that seven Abu Sayyaf members had been killed, “with authorities now searching for their burial sites.”
Mamauag also said three members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), another Muslim guerrilla force with whom the government has just signed a peace agreement, were also killed Friday, but “their bodies were as yet unrecovered.”
According to Alton Angeles, municipal planning officer of the town where most of the fighting occurred, MILF guerrillas were fighting alongside the government troops.
However, MILF vice chair Ghazali Jaafar told AFP the rebel leadership had yet to receive a report of MILF casualties.
“It’s possible people got killed because there was a firefight,” Jaafar told AFP by telephone. Julie Alipala, Inquirer Mindanao; AFP, AP
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