COTABATO CITY, 19 April 2003 - Five soldiers have been killed and 15 others wounded in another attack by guerrillas of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in Central Mindanao, the separatist group said yesterday.
An MILF field officer named Commander Bravo claimed that his men under the 103rd Base Command attacked the command post of the army's 26th Battalion at Inodaran village in Kauswagan, Lanao del Norte at about 6 a.m. yesterday and left the place in shambles.
Bravo said one of his men was killed in the attack and two others were injured.
He said the attack "is not in any way intended to insult or disrupt the observance of the Holy Week by the Christian community, but rather, a continuance of our active defense against the AFP's (Armed Forces of the Philippines) aggression ... in various parts of Mindanao," Bravo told Arab News.
Bravo's men were responsible for the capture of six government militiamen and an army corporal in the town of Baloi, Lanao del Norte last month.
Except for the corporal, the captives were declared prisoners of war (POWs) and later released to representatives of the the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) on humanitarian grounds.
Bravo said the corporal, Johnny Umpong, escaped from MILF custody at about 5:30 p.m. on March 7, 2003, a day after his group was overpowered and taken as POWs.
In a statement, the MILF said fierce fighting also took place on Tursday between soldiers and separatist fighters in Lapurap village of Tuburan, Basilan, resulting in the death of five soldiers and injury to several others.
The MILF fighters led by Commander Hadji Idris sustained two deaths and four injuries, said the statement.
In the province of Albay, about 300 kilometers southeast of Manila, five soldiers were also reported killed and nine wounded in a gunbattle with communist guerrillas, the military said.
Troops were on patrol in a village near the town of Ligao when they chanced upon some 40 New People's Army (NPA) rebels Thursday, the regional military command said.
There were no initial reports on rebel casualties.
The NPA, the armed wing of the underground Communist Party of the Philippines, has also a strong presence in troubled Mindanao. It has a standing agreement with the MILF to support each other when under attack by government forces.