Army major, soldier killed in Abu Sayyaf ambush in Basilan

Two soldiers, one of them a junior officer, were killed Sunday in an ambush staged by Abu Sayyaf bandits in Al-Barka town in Basilan province, the military said Tuesday. Six suspected Abu Sayyaf members were also killed, although only two bodies were recovered, according to Col. Carlito Galvez, commander of the Army's 104th Brigade. Galvez identified the two slain soldiers as Maj. Alin Kannung and Technical Sergeant Ferdinand Costan. Aside from the fatalities, the military also suffered four wounded who were airlifted to Zamboanga City. Galvez said the troops were on their way to the Bohe Piyang village to distribute livestock and inspect future Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) projects when they were “sniped” by the bandits at 3 p.m. Sunday.

"Mga three hours lang naman ['yung encounter], mga sniping na malayuan,” Galvez said, adding the bandits, led by one Basir Kasaran and Musana Jamiri, were 200 to 300 meters away from the soldiers. He said the soldiers continued with their livestock dispersal in the village of Magcawa on Monday morning. The military is now coordinating with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which is observing a ceasefire with the government in connection with the peace talks, in pursuing the bandits. "Kausapin muna natin kung saan nagpunta kasi hindi pwedeng... mag-pursuit kaagad, kailangan deliberate kasi with coordination with the MILF. Hindi kami pwedeng mag-operation unilaterally dahil 'yung supremacy ng peace process ayaw nating ma-sacrifice," Galvez said. It was also in Al-Barka that the Abu Sayyaf group reportedly beheaded several marines in 2007. — Kimberly Jane Tan/KBK, GMA News