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4 Marines killed, 10 injured in Sulu ambush

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By Joel Guinto, Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 10:13:00 08/30/2008

ZAMBOANGA CITY/MANILA, Philippines — (UPDATE 3) Four soldiers were killed and 10 others wounded in an early morning ambush by suspected Muslim extremists in the southern island province of Sulu on Saturday, officials said.

At 6:45 a.m., a convoy from the 11th Marine Battalion Landing Team was in the vicinity of Bonbon village in Patikul town when they were attacked by the gunmen, believed to be members of the al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf group, Philippine Marine Corps commandant Major General Ben Dolorfino said.

“Four of our soldiers were killed in the fighting. Ten more wounded and operations are ongoing in the area,” Western Mindanao Command spokesman Major Eugene Batara said.

An unknown number of gunmen are also believed to have been killed in the fighting, Batara said.

The Marines were on their way to a brigade command post on Mt. Bayug in Talipao town when fired upon by the group armed with mortars and high-powered guns, said Navy spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Edgard Arevalo.

The firefight lasted for 10 minutes, after which, the gunmen retreated, Arevalo said, adding the fatalities and the wounded were airlifted to Zamboanga City.

Dolorfino said the soldiers were on a convoy transporting logistics when waylaid.

Two vehicles were hit by an explosion, which would explain the number of casualties, he said.

Dolorfino said it was also not clear if a firefight really took place because “the reports reaching me said the enemies made a quick withdrawal.”

“Cellular phone signal in Bonbon is limited that is why we are having difficulty in communicating with the battalion commander,” he said referring to Lieutenant Colonel Joselito Calimag, the MBLT 11 commander.

Batara said the Marines managed to put up a fight even as the armed men, whom he refused to call Abu Sayyaf extremists, were firing mortars and small firearms on them.

“The said unit could have engaged a bigger force (numbering) around 100 and we cannot determine if they are really ASG members,” he said.

Meanwhile, Major General Juancho Sabban, commander of the military’s Joint Task Force Comet based in Sulu, said continued “security operations” will be conducted in the island-province even during the observance of Ramadan to ensure peace and order.

But Sabban quickly added that “non-stop implementation of humanitarian undertakings” will be implemented alongside military operations.

To prevent the humanitarian action from being misconstrued as military action during Ramadan, which starts on Monday, Sabban said the military “has been in constant dialogue with the imams and ulama for better understanding and to prevent any situation that may be interpreted as a disregard of Muslim tradition.”

The Abu Sayyaf group has engaged in bombings and mass kidnappings for ransom, often targetting Christians and foreigners.

US military advisers have been training local forces to hunt down the group which has been involved in abductions and killings of Americans in the past. With reports from Ed General, Inquirer Mindanao and Agence France-Presse

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Written by joelguinto

SatUTC2008-08-30T11:16:54+00:00UTC08bUTCSat, 30 Aug 2008 11:16:54 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am08

Posted in Uncategorized

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