Tuesday, April 13, 2010

12 Dead as Muslim Militants Attack Philippine City

Muslim militants disguised as policemen and soldiers detonated bombs and opened fire Tuesday in a series of coordinated attacks in a southern Philippine city, triggering clashes that killed at least 12 people.

About 25 Abu Sayyaf militants were involved in the attacks in Isabela city on the island province of Basilan, one of the most daring operations by the al-Qaida-linked group in recent months, regional military commander Lt. Gen. Benjamin Dolorfino said.

The dead included three marines and three militants, including an Abu Sayyaf commander identified as Bensar Indama, who wore a police uniform. A policeman and five civilians were also killed, including one who died in a hospital in nearby Zamboanga city after being airlifted from Basilan, Dolorfino said.

Nine people were wounded by the blasts and gunfire, including two militants who were captured, he said.

Isabela is one of two Christian regions on predominantly Muslim Basilan, the birthplace of the Abu Sayyaf, which has long been blacklisted by Washington as a terrorist organization because of its involvement in kidnappings, bombings and other acts of banditry.

American counterterrorism troops based in a military camp in Isabela, about 550 miles (880 kilometers) south of Manila, were unaffected by the attacks and provided intelligence to help troops pursue the Abu Sayyaf gunmen, Rear Adm. Alex Pama said.

The attacks began just after the morning rush hour when a bomb in a van exploded and damaged a grandstand in a sports center. Another bomb attached to a motorcycle went off an hour later at the back of a Roman Catholic cathedral, where five cars were damaged. A third explosive was found near the residence of a local judge and detonated by troops, Dolorfino said.

Army, police and marines rapidly swarmed into the city and engaged the militants, who split into at least three groups as they withdrew. The gunbattles sparked panic and sent passers-by fleeing for cover.

To read more: http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2010/04/13/world/AP-AS-Philippines-Muslim-Rebels.html?_r=1&ref=asia

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