11 dead as Muslim militants attack Philippine city
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Last Updated: Tuesday, April 13, 2010, 19:24
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, officials said.

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 Dolorfino said.

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 Pama said.

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 said.

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," Pama said.

“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 station.


First Published: Tuesday, April 13, 2010, 19:24

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