2 Abu Sayyaf killed in Al-Barka clash
MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – Troops from the Armed Forces of the Philippines' Join Task Group Basilan encountered fighters from the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in Al-Barka town in Basilan before daybreak on Sunday, February 15.
According to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), government forces were implementing a military operation against members of the ASG led by a certain Bashir Kasaran in Barangay Kuhun in Al-Barka.
AFP spokesman Lt Col Harold Cabunoc said 6 soldiers were wounded in sporadic clashes that lasted for 7 hours.
At least 2 members of the ASG died while two others were wounded, Cabunoc said, adding that 5 civilians were shot by ASG members. Six soldiers, meanwhile, were wounded in the clash.
The civilians and soldiers are currently being treated at a local hospital.
"The soldiers heroically rescued them amidst the heavy fighting and transported them to a hospital," Cabunoc said in a tweet.
In an earlier tweet, Cabunoc said an MG MD 520 chopper had been sent to the area to support government’s troops. The same chopper was hit by enemy fire while providing close air support for troops in Al-Barka, Cabunoc later said.
The fire fight is still ongoing as of posting.
"The AFP and [Philippine National Police] are relentlessly pursuing the bandits in Basilan province in collaboration with the local government and in coordination with other stakeholders including the MILF communities," Cabunoc said in a statement released by the AFP.
"We will not allow the lawless elements to hamper the development projects and other peace initiatives in the province of Basilan and the rest of Mindanao," he added.
Al-Barka is the same town where almost 4 years ago, 19 soldiers from the Army’s Special Forces were killed by forces from the ASG and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). It would be the worst operational blunders in the Army’s recent history. Officers from the AFP were court-martialed over the incident.
Two were found guilty while the other two, acquitted before a military court.
In 2007, some 23 troops from the Marines were also killed in Al-Barka during skirmishes with the MILF.
The MILF and the Philippine government have recently signed a peace deal that would pave the way to the creation of a new autonomous region in Muslim Mindanao.
But the death of at least 65 individuals including 44 elite cops during a police operation gone awry in Mamasapano town, Maguindanao, have put the peace process in danger. – Rappler.com