ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines — Suspected Abu Sayyaf gunmen killed at least six persons and wounded a dozen more, including two children, when they attacked a village in Basilan province on Monday, the same day authorities announced the rescue of a Vietnamese sailor held captive for nine months by the extremists.
The attack on Barangay Tubigan, Maluso town happened around 5:30 a.m. Monday while most of the residents were still asleep, the military said. The village was to celebrate its feast day Tuesday.
Colonel Juvymax Uy, Joint Task Force Basilan commander, said the attackers withdrew when troops stationed nearby reinforced the handful of militiamen and village watchmen who engaged the gunmen.
A wounded survivor, Jordan Garcia, 24, said they saw what he estimated to be more than a hundred heavily armed gunmen clad in fatigue uniform arrive on foot and converge at the barangay covered court before the attack.
The attackers then opened fire towards houses as residents fled. They also set fire to some of the houses and the village health center.
Garcia, who was hit in the leg, said his driver was among those killed. The wounded were transferred to Zamboanga City.
Another of the identified fatalities was militiaman Reynaldo Esparcia, 50.
It was the second attack on Tubigan. The first, on February 27, 2010, left 11 people dead.
Meanwhile, Do Trung Huige, 33, was left behind when his captors fled Mataja Island Saturday, Jesca May Viduya, spokeswoman for Naval Forces Western Mindanao, said.
“There was no firefight because his captors abandoned him as troops approached,” she said.
The rescued hostage was one of six Vietnamese sailors snatched from the M/V Royal 16 near Coco Island, Basilan November 11 last year.
Two are still being held, two were beheaded and another was rescued.
Two more Vietnamese sailors seized in a separate incident are among 19 captives still being held in Jolo.
In all, more than 20 people, including 14 foreigners, are still being held, some for as long as three years, by the Abu Sayyaf.
One of the extremist group’s leaders, Isnilon Hapilon, is blamed for planning the occupation of Marawi City, where more than 700 people have been killed and 400,000 displaced in a battle that continues to rage after three months.