see update: 8 dead, more than 40 hurt in Zamboanga clash

Government forces launched air strikes in Payao, Zamboanga Sibugay, on Monday as the military leadership ordered continous pursuit operations against “lawless elements” in Western Mindanao.

Lieutenant General Raymundo Ferrer, Armed Forces Western Mindanao Command chief, said the operation is aimed at the group of Waning Abdulsalam.

“He (Abdulsalam) should be brought to justice for all the past kidnappings and extortion done by him and his group,” Ferrer said in a statement sent via text message.

The first air sortie was launched at 11 a.m. followed by another at 11:40 a.m., Lt. Col. Randolph Cabangbang, Armed Forces Western Mindanao Command spokesman, said in a phone interview.

Major Harold Cabunoc, acting Army spokesman, said some 200 soldiers and policemen, backed by OV-10 bomber planes and armored vehicles, carried out the assault at Sitio Taib, Brgy. Labatan.

“About 100 heavily-armed bandits are hold up in their bunkers and running trenches,” he said, adding there is no recognized “area of temporary stay” for the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in the area.

The MILF earlier claimed that Abdulsalam is one of their commanders and owned up to ambuscades in Alicia and Kabasalan on October 20, saying these were in retaliation for the military operations in Payao.

Five soldiers and three policemen, including two officers were killed in those attacks.

“The MILF claims Abdulsalam as one of their commanders. They can actually assist us, through the AHJAG and CCCH,” Ferrer said. (John Roson)

see update: 8 dead, more than 40 hurt in Zamboanga clash

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