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2 rebels yield; 16 others killed

MANILA, Philippines - Two allies of renegade Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) commander Waning Abdusalam have surrendered to government troops in Zamboanga Sibugay, the military reported yesterday.

Army chief Lt. Gen. Arturo Ortiz said Usman Ajijun, 57, and Nuhurin Intang, 50, also yielded a 60 mm mortar tube, an M-79 grenade launcher, and an M16 rifle to Lt. Col. Catalino Masa, commander of the Army’s 4th Special Forces after Air Force OV-10 bombers attacked rebel positions in Barangay Labatan, Payao town.

Military and police operations were launched against the group of Abdusalam in Zamboanga Sibugay province, particularly in Payao and nearby villages where the rebels have conducted robberies and kidnappings.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) deputy chief of staff for operations Maj. Gen. Jose Mabanta Jr. reported that 16 of Abdusalam followers were reported killed in the fighting that started last Monday.

Mabanta said the casualty figures are still being validated but soldiers have already confirmed six dead rebels after two days of Air Force bombings.

An armed group ambushed and killed one soldier while three others were wounded along the shorelines of Sitio Gaphy, Barangay Talaban in Zamboanga City last Tuesday night.

Corporal Jerry Sakayan of the Task Force Zamboanga was killed while Cpl. Sahibudin, Pfc. Alwin Piala, and Pfc. Vincent Tomo were wounded and are now being treated at a local hospital.

The troops were conducting patrol operations when unidentified armed men on board a motorboat attacked them. The troops fired back, hitting the suspects and destroying their boat.

Government troops have met strong resistance from the rebels despite the continued Air Force bombing and artillery fire in Payao town.

“The troops have not penetrated the main hideout. It appeared that over the years they (rebels) have developed that mangrove place as impenetrable hideout, building bunker emplacements, machine gun nests, and fortified positions in bridge of dry land,” Lt. Col. Randolf Cabangbang, spokesman for Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom), said.

Cabangbang said for two days since Monday, ground and air forces have pounded the rebel position with bombs and artillery in Sitio Talaib, Barangay Labatan.

“Every time we advance closer there is resistance,” Cabangbang said, prompting the continuous aerial assault.

He said the area has been occupied by the group of Abdusalam where they consolidate and plan their kidnapping activities and often hide their kidnap victims.

However, the military had imposed a blockade of the coastal areas surrounding Sitio Talaib to prevent the rebels from escaping.

Zamboanga Sibugay Gov. Rommel Jalosjos has supported the continued military operations against the rebels.

“These people have been given chance to surrender and face the bar of justice but it seems they are not surrendering, so there is a need to push for the continued military operations to stop them and their criminalities,” Jalosjos said. With Roel Pareño

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By Jaime Laude (The Philippine Star) Updated October 27, 2011 12:00 AM

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