MANILA, Philippines - Twenty-one civilians, mostly women, were killed while 14 others were wounded when suspected Abu Sayyaf bandits ambushed yesterday morning in a Sulu village two vehicles taking residents to the town proper to celebrate Eid’l Fitr.
Capt. Ma. Rowena Muyuela, spokesperson for Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom), said the victims – about 40 of them – were on board two Tamaraw public utility vehicles escorted by 10 members of the barangay police action team (BPAT), a local militia organized to guard the community, when they were ambushed by about 50 Abu Sayyaf members at around 8:30 a.m. in Sitio Jatih in Barangay Lower Talipao.
The military said 21 were killed while 14 others, most of them children, were wounded and brought to the Integrated Provincial Health Office.
Chief Superintendent Robert Kiunisala, acting police director of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), identified the fatalities as Misyaar Hassan, 14, Maida Hasan, 35, Jirmalyn Hasan, 15, Dadah Palahuddin, 85, Mura Ahadan, 60, Jainab Ajid, 50, Milina Ahadan, 15, Miriam Binhur, 19, Nurfaisa Gappar, 14, Risalyn Isahac, 7 and Dayang Ahadan, 19.
The other fatalities were Padzma Hasan, 32, Tata Isahac, 40, Saik Ajid, 45, Said Palahuddin, 35, Abdul Julhari, 83, Baris Julhari, 19, Abdukahal Ahadan, 19 and Abdulrahim Isahac Omar.
Two of the fatalities have not yet been identified.
There were reports that at least 40 Abu Sayyaf members led by Idang Susukan and Sibih Pisih attacked the convoy allegedly because of rido or clan war.
The 14 wounded are Sabur Saik, 21, Rohana Tamrin, 9, Termejie Tamrimo, 3, Ahmad Patani, 14, Alnijar Isahac, 18, Ibnoraja Bakkang, 60, Almajir Jumdana, 45, Ahadin Tamrin, 30, Titong Timar, 14, Rosalyn Palahuddin, 27, Maldiya Palahuddin, 24, Radjal Tambuyong, 30, Tamrin Ahadin, 45 and Ruhaidi Saik, 35.
Police are coordinating with their military counterparts in Sulu for the conduct of investigation and follow-up operations against the perpetrators, said Kiunsala.
The Westmincom said the militiamen on board the vehicles fired back at the ambushers who were forced to withdraw towards the nearby mountain.
ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman condemned the attack on the civilians, describing it as a senseless act, especially as Muslims just ended the month-long fasting of Ramadan with the celebration of Eid’l Fitr today.
Hataman directed the military and police to investigate the incident and track down the bandits.
The police added that the target of the group could be the 10 armed militiamen on board the vehicles.
Muyuela said the Marines and police units have launched pursuit operation against the attackers.
Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala, AFP Public Affairs Office chief, said the attack on civilians is barbaric.
“We condemn in the strongest possible terms the killing of civilian non-combatants by the Abu Sayyaf. Once again they have shown their terrorist color,” Zagala said. – With Alexis Romero, Jaime Laude