16 MILF REBELS KILLED IN BATTLE NEAR CAMP ABUBAKAR
Cotabato City, July 31, 2000 Sixteen guerillas belonging to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) died in two clashes with government troops in a dense jungle near Camp Abubakar yesterday.
Army Maj. Lito Aso, spokesman for the 6th Infantry Division, said yesterday's fighting began when a band of rebels attacked soldiers patrolling an area near the abandoned house of MILF chairman Hashim Salamat.
The rebels hid in a forested hill and fired at the soldiers. The soldiers retaliated and drove the MILF guerrillas toward the border of Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur.
A second clash occurred three hours later when troops from the 7th Infantry Battalion and an Army reconnaissance team chanced upon another group of rebels gathering root crops at the western part of the MILF camp.
It was a long firefight that stretched for about three hours, during which soldiers used tanks and artillery guns to clear the area of rebels.
Officials in Buldon, Barira and Matanog towns have confirmed that 16 rebels died in the skirmishes. Two of the fatalities were commanders of the MILF who reportedly trained abroad, while 7 were teenagers. Military officials said Army and Marine soldiers continued to pursue the rebels who fled carrying their wounded comrades. He said they have received information that some of the fleeing rebels were part of the group that ambushed coconut farmers in Balabagan, Lanao del Sur on July 22. Some 13 farmers were killed in that attack.
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