Hassan Dan Laksaw Asnawi, a member of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front's 114th Base Command, escaped from the Basilan Provincial Jail in 2009 after being arrested for the beheading of Marines in Al Barka in 2007. He was said to have led the rebels in a clash that left at least 12 soldiers dead, also in Al Barka, on Tuesday

Twelve soldiers got killed while 10 others were left missing and 11 more were wounded in a clash with suspected Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Abu Sayyaf members in Al Barka, Basilan, Tuesday, the military said.

Lieutenant Col. Randolph Cabangbang, Armed Forces Western Mindanao Command spokesman, said the clash between members of the Army’s 4th Special Forces Battalion (4SFB) and armed men erupted at Sitio Bakisung, Brgy. Cambug, around 5:30 a.m.

“Our troops were operating based on the information of the presence of an armed group, possibly with kidnap victims. It was reported that the armed groupis being headed by Dan Laksaw Asnawi, a fugitive,” Cabangbang said.

“We are currently coordinating with the Committee on Ceasefire and Cessation of Hostilities and Ad Hoc Joint Action Group because allegedly some MILF members were involved in the killing and wounding of our soldiers,” he added.

The clash lasted for six hours and the slain soldiers included a Capt. Caminos, Lt. Siao, and Lt. Manina, a military source said, adding that seven were killed on the enemy side.

Those killed on the MILF side were identified as Ustadz Munip Habibun, Manap Limaya, a certain Haji Rick, Kaharut Abdusal, Baddi, Sibin, and Marijul, according to a report from the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Police Office.

Colonel Arnulfo Burgos, Armed Forces public affairs chief, said the troops clashed with members of the Abu Sayyaf and “lawless elements.”

An MG520 helicopter and OV-10 bomber plane were sent to provide “close air support” to the embattled troops while two UH-1H helicopters were also deployed to fetch the wounded, Burgos said.

The soldiers, comprised of members of 13the Special Forces Company and students of the military’s scuba diving course, encountered MILF members under Dan Laksaw Asnawi and Abu Sayyaf members under Nurhassan Jamiri, the source said.

“They (soldiers) were in the area to hunt down an escapee from the Basilan Provincial Jail when they encountered armed men, another group reinforced the enemy so our troops were outnumbered,” said the source.

Asnawi, according to police records, is a member of the MILF 114th Base Command and was among those charged for the killing of 14 Marines, of which 10 were beheaded, in Al Barka in 2007.

He and at least 30 inmates were “rescued” from the Basilan Provincial Jail in December 13, 2009, when a band of heavily-armed men stormed the facility. (John Roson)

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