ZAMBOANGA, April 7, 2011 (AFP) – Seven people were killed including a Philippine Muslim rebel on Thursday during a firefight with soldiers and police, officials said.
The clash occurred on Kalianta, a tiny island off the Zamboanga peninsula of the southern island of Mindanao when law enforcers attempted to arrest rebel Kamja Asdanal.
Asdanal, of the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), was among seven people killed inside a house in a shootout that lasted several hours, said local army commander Colonel Buenaventura Pascual.
“The fighting was really intense and we have reports that at least seven gunmen were in the house and that they had foxholes inside,” Pascual told reporters in the southern port.
“The house eventually burned and nobody escaped,” Pascual added.
Regional police chief Felicisimo Khu said the authorities have identified the bodies of Asdanal and at least one of his sons, Omar Asdanal, among the dead.
Two policemen were also wounded in the clash, Khu added.
Local authorities said Asdanal and several of his sons were being sought for a string of attacks on police and military targets as well as extortion along the Zamboanga peninsula.
Neither he nor Pascual would not say if the group was a suspect in an attack on a passenger bus in nearby Tungawan town on Tuesday, when gunmen shot dead a Philippine Army major, his wife and a bus security man aboard the vehicle.
The suspects also robbed the passengers and later set fire to the bus along with the bodies of the three victims, Pascual had told reporters earlier.
The bus attack had taken place in an area where the MILF is known to be active, but the group has not commented on either incident.
The 12,000-member MILF, which is observing a ceasefire and negotiating peace with the government, has waged a decades-old rebellion that has claimed tens of thousands of lives across Mindanao.