ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
Philippines strikes separatists
Two OV-10 attack planes bombed a remote village on the edge of Payao town, Zamboanga Sibugay province, on Mindanao island, where Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels have been entrenched since last week, Philippine Army spokesman and Maj. Harold Cabunoc said.
Meanwhile, President Benigno Aquino 3rd also on Monday blamed the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) over the death of 19 soldiers and policemen in Basilan province also in Mindanao last week.
At the same time, the President insisted that the 19 men were killed by members of the local terrorist group Abu Sayyaf, not by MILF rebels.
“The bombing attacks began at 11.30 a.m.,” Cabunoc said of the latest AFP offensive in Zamboanga Sibugay.
“About 100 heavily armed bandits are holed up in their bunkers and running trenches,” he said.
According to the Army spokesman, a combined contingent of 200 police and military commandos on the ground were also involved in the operation.
Lt. Col. Randolph Cabangbang, the regional military spokesman, said that the gunmen targeted by the air strikes were rogue MILF rebels who were involved in kidnapping and other criminal activities.
The air raids, Cabangbang added, were the first against the MILF since 2008, when the military also used aircraft to bombard followers of two rebel commanders who had launched deadly raids across Mindanao that left about 400 dead.
The same group of rebels was blamed for ambushes that killed four soldiers and four policemen last Thursday.
Cabangbang said that the attacks targeted machinegun nests and fortified bunkers of the MILF.
He added that the operation was aimed at flushing out MILF leader Wanning Abdusalam and several others who are wanted by authorities for kidnappings for ransom and killings in Mindanao.
Several MILF leaders, among them Pulot Jakaria and Ogis Jakaria, have arrest warrants, some issued by a local court in 2007, for kidnappings and murders.
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