PGMA renders assistance to families of soldiers who perished in Mindanao clashes

August 13, 2009 10:26 am 

MANILA, Aug. 13 –- President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is rendering funeral and financial assistance to the families of 23 Filipino soldiers who died Wednesday while fighting suspected Abu Sayyaf terrorists in militant training camps in the villages of Silangkum and Baguindan, Basilan.

Reports reaching Malacañang said at least 44 people, including 23 Filipino soldiers, died in the clash. 30 to 40 militants were killed, but only 21 bodies had been recovered, the military said.

“The President made sure the bodies of the men who died are transported to their families and accorded proper funeral rites. Those wounded are being taken cared off on orders of President Arroyo,” Deputy Presidential Spokesman Dr. Anthony Golez said in a media briefing on Thursday.

Golez said the surviving loved ones of those who died will be supported by the government. He said the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP) will pursue the rebels until justice is served.

The militants used the training camps to temporarily house kidnapping victims, the manufacture and assembly of explosives, stockpile high-powered firearms and keep vital documents, according to reports from AFP.

Abu Sayyaf, which has been linked to the al Qaeda terrorist network, is one of several Islamic militant groups fighting the Philippine government.

The group operates largely in Basilan, according to the United States (US) State Department, and wants to establish a separate state for the country's minority Muslim population.

The government has been fighting to contain the group, which is blamed for several terrorist attacks in the Philippines, including the bombing of a ferry in 2004 that left about 130 people dead.

This year, Abu Sayyaf has been implicated in the kidnappings of several International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) workers and journalists. (PNA)/V3/JCA/

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