Armed men fired upon a passenger vessel carrying registrant voters in waters off Maluso, Basilan, early Monday, killing a woman and wounding two others, authorities said.

Colonel Ramon Yogyog, commander of the Army’s Special Forces in Basilan, identified the fatality as Nurhiba Ahamad, 46, and the injured, Hadja Patricia Kadil, 46, and Awina Ahamad, 35. All three are residents of Tabuan-Lasa town.

The incident occurred around 1 a.m. in waters between Calang Canas and Tamuk Island.

Senior Supt. Alex Lineses, Basilan provincial police director, said the ML Marlboro was ferrying 300 to 400 passengers, some of them registrant voters, from Zamboanga City to Tabuan Lasa when it was fired upon by men on two other boats.

The gunmen, only estimated to be four or more because of the darkness, were seen carrying an M16 rifle attached with an M203 grenade launcher as well as an M14 rifle.

“I can only suppose that the armed men thought the boat was carrying ‘flying voters’ because of the ongoing registration here,” Lineses said in a phone interview.

“Akala siguro nila hakot, pero mga legal registrants ‘yun… kasi registration ngayon, alam mo naman uso ang hakot,” he said.

Lineses said the voters registration has so far been proceeding normally since it started on July 9.

“May kaunting decrease (in registrants), pero ine-expect natin na marami pang magre-register kasi hanggang July 18 pa naman ito,” he said. (John Roson)

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