Ten people wounded in mortar attack on Philippine kidnap island
Ten people were wounded when suspected Muslim militants fired mortars near a military camp on a southern Philippine island where government troops clashed with the kidnappers of three Red Cross staff, a marine commander said Tuesday.
Major General Juancho Sabban said the attack occurred late Monday as government troops clashed with Muslim Abu Sayyaf rebels holding captive three employees of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) on Jolo island, 1,000 kilometres south of Manila,dpa
Sabban said the attack was apparently intended to hit the military camp in Busbus village, but fell short and hit residential houses. The wounded suffered shrapnel wounds.
"It was a diversionary tactic," he said.
Five soldiers were wounded in the fighting in the hinterlands of Indanan town between government troops and the al-Qaeda-linked rebels who seized Swiss Andreas Notter, Italian Eugenio Vagni and Filipino Mary Jean Lacaba on January 15.
Armed forces chief General Alexander Yano said the fighting erupted when the rebels attempted to breach a cordon set up by the government security forces.
Yano said the rebels apparently felt pressure from the presence of government troops near their lair and tried to take their hostages out of the area.
Sabban said fighting has ceased overnight, but tensions remained high in the area.
He added he received information that the hostages were unharmed and still in the Indanan area.
The Abu Sayyaf group has been blamed for some of the worst terrorist attacks and high-profile kidnappings in the Philippines.
In 2000, the Abu Sayyaf abducted 21 European tourists and Asian workers from a Malaysian resort island and brought them to Jolo. The hostages were ransomed off for millions of dollars before they were freed months later.
The following year, a separate band of Abu Sayyaf rebels seized 17 Filipino vacationers and three American tourists from a western Philippine resort. Most of the hostages were later rescued or ransomed off, but two of the Americans were killed.