BASILAN – Five people were reported missing in the restive province of Basilan in southern Philippines where Abu Sayyaf militants are actively operating, officials said Sunday.
Officials said three of those missing, Rene Sanson, Hernando Sally and Mertong Falcasantos are civilians and two others – Roberto Lacastesantos and Renato Casiple – are pro-government militias. All of them are from the town of Lantawan and had been missing since July 20.
“Troops of the Joint Task Force Basilan immediately deployed forces to find the missing persons,” said Army Captain Jo-ann Petinglay, a spokeswoman for the Western Mindanao Command.
It was unknown whether the missing persons were seized by the Abu Sayyaf, blamed by authorities for the spate of killings and ransom kidnappings in Basilan, one of 5 provinces under the Muslim autonomous region.
Petinglay said the operations against the Abu Sayyaf is also continuing in the neighboring province of Sulu. She troops over the weekend recovered an automatic rifle and a grenade launcher left behind by the extremist group in Anuling village in Patikul town where the military clashed with militants on July 20. Two gunmen, Benajir Intag and Bassal Mahalli, were killed in the clash.
She said one soldier was injured in the fighting that erupted in Patikul, a known stronghold of the extremist group which is holding over a dozen kidnapped foreigners and Filipinos in the restive region. But Petinglay said troops only recovered the body of Intag, including the weapons left behind by retreating militants – a K3 squad automatic weapon, an M16A1 Colt with M203 grenade launcher, and an M653 with M203 – and two cell phones, 3 solar panels and 8 backpacks containing assorted food stuffs and personal belongings.
There was no report whether any of the hostages were in the area. Sulu is also part of the autonomous region. (Mindanao Examiner)
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