Manila: Muslim militants disguised as
policemen and soldiers detonated bombs and opened fire on Tuesday
in a series of coordinated attacks in a southern Philippine
city, triggering clashes that killed at least 11 people,
About 25 Abu Sayyaf militants were involved in the
attacks in Isabela city on the island province of Basilan, one
of the most daring operations by the al-Qaida-linked group in
recent months, regional military commander Lt. Gen. Benjamin
The dead included three marines and three militants,
including an Abu Sayyaf commander identified as Bensar Indama,
who wore a police camouflage uniform. A policeman and four
civilians were also killed, Dolorfino said. Five people were
wounded by gunfire, including two militants, who were
captured, he said.
Isabela is one of two Christian regions on predominantly
Muslim Basilan, the birthplace of the Abu Sayyaf, which has
long been blacklisted by Washington as a terrorist
organization due to its involvement in kidnappings, bombings
and other acts of banditry.
American counter terrorism troops based in a military
camp in Isabela, about 880 kilometers south of Manila, were
unaffected by the attacks and were providing intelligence to
help local troops pursue the Abu Sayyaf gunmen, Rear Adm. Alex
The attacks began just after the morning rush hour when a
bomb in a van exploded and damaged a grandstand in a sports
center. Another bomb attached to a motorcycle went off an hour
later at the back of a Roman Catholic cathedral, where five
cars were damaged, and a third explosive was found near the
residence of a local judge and detonated by troops, Dolorfino
Army, police and marines rapidly swarmed into the city
and engaged the militants, who split into at least three
groups as they withdrew. The gunbattles sparked panic and sent
passers-by fleeing for cover, officials said.
Pama, who heads a counter terrorism force, said the
militants may have intended to detonate additional bombs and
apparently tried but failed to take hostages before fleeing.
"They had a big plan, a major attack that we foiled,"
“If they intended to carry out a Mumbai-style attack,
then it backfired," Pama told agency, referring
to the November 2008 attacks in Mumbai by 10 gunmen who
stormed two luxury hotels, a Jewish center and a train