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Blast rocks military camp in Sulu; 5 dead, 9 injured

Zamboanga City—Five people including three soldiers were killed and nine other people were wounded in an explosion near a military camp in Tanjung in Indanan, Sulu on Friday afternoon, an official said.

Blast rocks military camp in Sulu; 5 dead, 9 injured
SCARY SCENARIO. Soldiers walk past the body of a man slumped beside a tricycle following an armed attack in front of the temporary headquarters of the Army’s 1st Brigade Combat team in Jolo on Friday. Five people including three soldiers died in the attack, with nine others wounded. AFP   
The military was clearly the target of the explosion, according to Lt. Col. Arvin John Encinas, the new spokesman of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ Western Mindanao Command.

He could not say what kind of explosive was used, but government troops were still conducting clearing operations in the area.

The attack was on a special Army counter-terrorism unit, military spokesmen and witnesses told Agence France-Presse. The army deployed the unit to Indanan four weeks ago.

Friday’s blast blew the roof off the sentry gate of the military camp and blackened its concrete walls, according to photographs of the aftermath of the attack on local television.

“It was a bomb and a firefight,” army spokesman Colonel Ramon Zagala told AFP earlier.

“This attack is meant to disrupt the intensified security operations and our operational tempo following series of recent operational gains in the area,” Zagala later said in a statement.

An AFP reporter on the scene saw a blood-soaked man slumped beside a motor tricycle on a street also stained with blood in front of the temporary headquarters of the army’s 1,500-member First Brigade Combat Team.

The authorities said they were not ruling out the involvement of Abu Sayyaf militants in the noontime attack on the island of Jolo, a stronghold of the Islamic State-linked rebel group.

“We’re not discounting the possibility that it’s the handiwork of Abu Sayyaf Group,” regional military spokesman Major Arvin Arcinas told reporters after the attack on the unit’s temporary headquarters.

The Philippines has renewed its campaign against the militants on Jolo this year after at least one suspected suicide bomber attacked the island’s Roman Catholic cathedral, killing 21 people.

READ: Prime suspect in Jolo blast, 4 others give up

Jolo and other remote areas of the southern Philippines are home to numerous armed groups including the Abu Sayyaf, which is notorious for kidnappings and bombings.

The militants, who demand large ransoms and have beheaded several hostages, have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group. 

READ: ISIS owns up to Jolo blasts

In the same week, a Dutch birdwatcher held for years by the Abu Sayyaf was killed on Jolo during a firefight between his kidnappers and soldiers sent to rescue him.

Meanwhile, a battalion of Philippine Marines has been deployed in Sulu following a nine-month training and a send-off ceremony given by Navy Flag Office in Command Vice Admiral Robert Empedrad and Marine Corps commandant Major General Alvin Parreño at the South Harbor on Friday.

The 8th Marine Battalion arrived in Manila in September 2018 from its deployment in Cagayan and Batanes.

In his speech, Empedrad said the Marines should “remember that the faith of the Filipino people lies on your unprecedented skills as this country’s protectors.

“With your spotless records of previous successful missions, we are likewise assured of your triumph in this new charge.

“We will again have stories of success and victory in the name of our Philippine Marine Corps, for our Navy, our Armed Forces and our maritime nation.”

The 8th Marine Battalion was deployed in Sulu to replace the Marine Battalion Landing Team 3, which in turn will replace MBLT 12 in Palawan.

According to the Marines’ Public Affairs Office, the Rifle Battalion Training System was conceptualized to provide a comprehensive approach to training based on the long-established PMC training concept.

The training is supposedly designed to sustain the combat preparedness of marine operating forces in the face of their relatively prolonged deployments and high operational tempo in the area.

It includes the proven fighting practices of the rifle battalion to a battalion landing team focusing on critical combat and non-combat tasks.

“With these innovations and capability development programs, they have once again shown that the marines are the adaptable force needed by our archipelagic nation that is ready to respond to crises and emergencies in the country,” Parreño said. 

READ: Ajang-Ajang man falls; Kamah escapes

Topics: Arvin John Encinas , Armed Forces of the Philippines , Western Mindanao Command , Ramon Zagala
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