Wed, Apr 12, 2017 - Page 6 News List

Nine dead in attack on Philippine island of Bohol, army says

ABU SAYYAF:The attack came after the Australian and US embassies warned their citizens about possible kidnappings by ‘terrorist groups’ in the Asian nation

AFP, MANILA

Nine people, including four members of the security forces, were yesterday killed in clashes with 10 suspected members of the Abu Sayyaf group on the island of Bohol, authorities said.

The incursion would be the first for years at a major Philippine tourist destination by the Abu Sayyaf, which has long engaged in kidnappings for ransom — often targeting foreigners in the lawless southern Philippines.

Five gunmen were killed at the scene of the fighting.

At least one police officer was confirmed killed in the fight, national police spokesman Senior Superintendent Dionardo Carlos said in a statement.

“Security forces reported that the armed group is well-armed with heavy caliber weapons, but now cornered in an isolated section” of Bohol, Philippine military chief of staff General Eduardo Ano said in a statement.

It comes after the US and Australian embassies warned their citizens this week about possible kidnappings by “terrorist groups” in the central Philippines.

Bohol is a major tourist destination, where foreign tourists swim with whale sharks and marvel at tiny primates called tarsiers, go on cruises aboard boats on crystal-clear rivers and lounge at sandy beaches.

The army had received information over the past few weeks about “a potential activity on the part of some lawless elements to disturb the peace” in the area, Philippine military spokesman Brigadier-General Restituto Padilla said on ABS-CBN television in Manila.

“The clearing operations are ongoing, and we are pouring in more forces to help and assist. We hope to finish this by the end of the day,” he said.

The gunmen sailed into the Bohol town of Inabanga on Monday, going upriver toward a remote section of the island aboard three fast boats, Inabanga police officer Edwin Melicor said by telephone.

“Residents told us the gunmen could have been Muslims because they were aboard boats that are used only in Mindanao,” Melicor said, referring to a southern area.

A clash broke out as police went to investigate early yesterday, Melicor added.

The Abu Sayyaf, also blamed for deadly bombings, has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group.

Over the past year the Abu Sayyaf has been expanding its activities, boarding commercial and fishing vessels off their southern island stronghold of Jolo, near Malaysia, and abducting dozens of foreign crew members.

They beheaded a German tourist earlier this year and two Canadian tourists last year, all three of them having been seized at sea.

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