5 dead, 29 wounded in PH gun battle with Abu Sayyaf
MANILA, Philippines (5th UPDATE) – Three bandits and two soldiers were killed Friday, April 11, in a day-long gun battle in Basilan between troops and Al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf extremists blamed for beheadings and kidnappings in the southern Philippines, the military said.
The fighting began as part of an operation to capture Abu Sayyaf commander Puruji Indama, said in a brief statement, and sporadic gunfire continued into the night.
"As of this time, 29 WIA (soldiers wounded in action) and two KIA (soldiers killed in action). Enemy, three killed," Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Ramon Zagala said.
Zagala earlier said soldiers were deployed to the area following information that ASG leader Puruji Indama was there. An encounter followed.
The military operation against the ASG was launched in response to the recent extortion and kidnapping incidents and the primary objective was to arrest Indama, according to Capt Maria Rowena Muyuela, public information officer of the military's Western Mindanao Command.
ASG members were said to be occupying school buildings in Barangay Baguindan and reportedly extorting from people involved in the ongoing construction of the Magkawa-Albarka Road, Muyuela said.
The military has already deployed naval and air forces to assist soldiers in the area, Muyuela said.
The Abu Sayyaf is believed to be behind the abduction of a Filipino hotel worker and a Chinese tourist in Malaysia on April 2. But Zagala said the Basilan operation was not linked to the incident.
"This is very specific. It is concentrated on Puruji Indama. He has long been targeted. It is separate from the kidnapping incident. There are other groups who are tasked to do that search," he said.
– with reports from Karlos Manlupig/Rappler.com, Agence France-Presse