Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Militants kill army major, soldier in Mindanao

Suspected members of the Abu Sayyaf extremist group ambushed and killed a Philippine Army major and a soldier and wounded four others on the island province of Basilan in volatile Mindanao, the military reported on Tuesday.

Colonel Rodrigo Gregorio, the regional military spokesman, said two suspected Abu Sayyaf members were also killed in the gunbattle that ensued following the ambush in a remote “barangay” (village) in the town of Al Barka, Basilan on Monday afternoon.

Gregorio identified the slain officer as Major Alin Kannung, the executive officer of the Army’s 32nd Infantry Battalion stationed in Basilan, a component province of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) along with Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Tawi and Sulu as well as Marawi City.

According to Gregorio, Kannung headed a “government humanitarian convoy” on its way to deliver goats and other livestock to Al Barka village residents when about 30 heavily armed Abu Sayyaf militants staged the ambush.

The militants, he said, left behind two of their slain comrades when they fled as they also brought along with them three others believed to have been wounded in the encounter.

Gregorio said the project was part of the government livelihood assistance programme for residents in conflict-affected areas in troubled Southern Philippines.

According to Gregorio, Kannung was a former commander of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) who was integrated into the Armed Forces of the Philippines when the government and the front signed a peace agreement in 1996.

He suspected that Kannung, a native of Al Barka, could have incurred the ire of the Abu Sayyaf for his involvement in the ongoing campaign against the militants since joining the Philippine Army.

The Abu Sayyaf gained local and international notoriety through a series of kidnap-for-ransom cases of Filipinos and foreigners, marred by the beheading of some of their hostages.

The military said continuous operations have drastically reduced the number of the extremists but acknowledged they remained a threat especially to the safety and security of residents of Basilan and Sulu where they have operated with impunity.

Regional and Filipino security experts have also confirmed the link of the Abu Sayyaf to the global Al Qaeda terrorist network through the Indonesia-based Jemaah Islamiyah militants.

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