Two missing soldiers in Basilan clash found alive

October 20, 2011 9:56 pm 

By Ben Cal

MANILA, Oct. 20 — Two of the three members of the elite Army Special Forces reported missing after a 10-hour fierce gun battle in Basilan on Tuesday are still alive and have rejoined their unit, a military spokesman told radio station DZBB on Thursday.

Only one trooper has remained missing, Lt. Col. Randolph Cabangbang, spokesman of the Western Mindanao Command (WesMinCom), said.

Cabangbang did not give details on how the two missing troopers survived the 10-hour firefight that resulted in the death of 19 Special Forces members and the wounding of 12 others.

He said that the search for the last missing Special Forces trooper will continue without letup until he is found.

The soldiers, numbering 40, were tasked to serve a warrant of arrest for a bandit group leader, when they were attacked by combined forces of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and a terrorist bandit group in Al-Barka town, Basilan.

Despite being outnumbered more than 2-1, the soldiers fought in close quarter battle against an overwhelming force until they ran out of ammunition, Cabangbang said.

Al-Barka town is one of the flash points on the island of Basilan. In 2007, Muslim rebels beheaded 10 of 14 Marine soldiers killed during a firefight.

One of those involved in the beheading was Dan Laksaw Asnawi, who is the object of the search warrant. Asnawi is the commander of the 114th Base Command of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on the island of Basilan.

Col. Antonio Parlade, spokesman of the Philippine Army, said the attack was uncalled for as it occurred four kilometers away from the so-called MILF camp, disputing the claim of the rebel group that the soldiers “intruded” into their camp.

The military had to dispatch its helicopter gun ships to give the beleaguered Special Forces air support. (PNA)

DCT/scs/RBC/mec

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