MANILA – The Armed Forces of the Philippines flew the Philippine Flag at half-mast in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City and other military camps nationwide yesterday as a sign of mourning for the death of 19 soldiers in an encounter with Abu Sayyaf Group bandits and fighters from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Tuesday.
The military said 12 other soldiers were wounded in action while 10 more are still missing.
“The AFP mourns with the families of our soldiers who were killed in action (KIA). They are already in St. Peter Funeral Homes in Zamboanga City, while the 12 wounded in action are confined at Camp Navarro Station Hospital and Ciudad Zamboanga Hospital,” AFP public affairs office head Col. Arnulfo Burgos, AFP Public Affairs Office head, said at a press briefing in Camp Aguinaldo Wednesday afternoon.
He said the troops from the 13th and 19th Special Forces Company encountered on Tuesday an undetermined number of lawless elements at Sitio Baisung Cambug, Al-Barka town Basilan. The encounter lasted from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Burgos said the government troopers had earlier launched an operation based on information fed to them on the presence of armed group in the area, led by Dan Asnawi who escaped from the Basilan jail in December 2009 along with 30 other inmates.
AFP troopers are now rescuing 10 missing in action personnel and exhausting peaceful measures.
Meanwhile, the Office of the Presidential Assistant on Peace Process said it was saddened by the incident.
“We are saddened to receive news from Basilan about an encounter that started at 5:30 a.m. yesterday, October 18, 2011 at Sitio Bakisong, Cambug Village, Al-Barka town,” OPAPP said.
“We are also informed that the incident has caused some casualties. Some civilians have also been evacuated as a result of the incident. They are already being attended to by the relevant government units,” OPAPP said.
The fighting has already stopped and OPAPP said they are certain that this is an isolated incident.
“This armed confrontation was not intended by both government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front,” OPAPP added.
In the meantime, the government panel in peace talks with the MILF is preparing for a meeting with its counterparts next month.*PNA