The Armed Forces has protested the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s (MILF) participation in the encounter that left at least 13 soldiers dead, 12 wounded, and eight still missing, in Al Barkah, Basilan.

Additional soldiers have also been sent to pursue those who were involved in the attack and search for the soldiers who were still missing as of Wednesday noon, AFP public affairs chief Col. Arnulfo Burgos said.

The military identified those killed as 1lts. Colt Alsiyao, Frank Junder Caminos, Vladimir Maninang, 2lt. Jose Delfine Khe, Pfcs. Michael Miguel, Garry Coronia, Dennis Bulan, Jordan Magno, Jonis Rigor, Ervin Dequito, Emerson Tugas, and Jordan Olivar.

Among the injured were 1lt. Joy Soliguen, Fidel Susarno, Pfcs. Jeff Sherwin Domingo, Benjamin Marquez, Arnel Balili, Mario Flora, Joseph Muyco, Jestoni Leyso, Reynante Malina, Russel Alsaga, and Pvt. Leo Moniol.

The military did not name the eight missing soldiers.

DND shocked

“It’s very unfortunate, we were shocked… They (soldiers) were just in a routine performance of duty,” Department of National Defense spokesman Atty. Zosimo Jesus Paredes said, when sought for comment.

“They (military) can file a protest, according to the ceasefire agreement,” he added.

In a press briefing, Burgos said the protest was filed to the Committee on Ceasefire and Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) and the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG) shortly after the clash.

This was because the rebels “reinforced” the armed men that soldiers were pursuing 5:30 a.m. Tuesday in Sitio Baisung, Brgy. Cambug, he said.

Members of the 13th and 19th Special Forces Companies were pursuing the group of Dan Laksaw Asnawi when the number of enemies suddenly “swelled up to 400,” outnumbering the troops 4 to 1, Colonel Carlito Galvez, operations chief of the AFP J3 (Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations) Office, said in the same briefing.

There was no reason for the MILF to join because the the fighting happened 4 kilometers from the rebels’ “area of temporary settlement” in Brgy. Ginanta, Burgos stressed.

‘Limited pursuit’

Meanwhile, Burgos said additional troops from the 4th Scout Ranger Battalion and other Army units have been sent to the area to pursue those who were involved in the clash and look for the missing soldiers.

Air assets like the UH1H and MG520 helicopters were again dispatched to help the search, he said.

“Ang paramount concern natin is to rescue the missing in action personnel and clearing operations,” Burgos said.

He, however, admitted that the pursuit will be “limited” as the military is not allowed to enter the MILF territory and risk another clash.

“We have to exercise restraint and we have to observe also ‘yung ‘area of temporary stay,’ as stipulated in the ceasefire agreement,” Burgos said.

“We are still seeking the go signal of the AHJAG and CCCH so that we can enter the MILF’s area of temporary stay,” Lt. Col. Randolph Cabangbang, AFP Western Mindanao Command spokesman, said. (John Roson)

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