Death toll in Abu Sayyaf road attack rises to 23

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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

MANILA -- The death toll in a brazen road attack by Abu Sayyaf bandits on some 50 villagers traveling in Lower Talipao, Sulu to celebrate the end of Ramadan with their families has climbed to 23 after a three-year-old boy and his father died from their injuries, officials said Tuesday.

Marine Brig. Gen. Martin Pinto said six villagers remain in the hospital as of Tuesday morning following the militants' bloodiest attack in recent years.

About 40 to 50 Abu Sayyaf militants armed with assault rifles opened fire Monday on the group traveling in two vans in a coastal village in Talipao town.

Pinto said the pursuit operations against the militants are ongoing.

Western Mindanao Command’s figures Monday night placed the number of dead at 21 with eight critically wounded.

"(The AFP) with the Philippine National Police (PNP) will conduct continuous security operations, for one, we will continue our pursuit operations against the perpetrators and at the same time, we will conduct law enforcement operations to maintain the peace and to avoid further civilian deaths," Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) public affairs office chief Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala said.

Zagala also declined to comment on whether there is failure on part of security forces covering Sulu.

"Actually, we have been continuously operating in Sulu for over a month now and that the security environment in Sulu remains a challenge not only for the AFP but for the PNP and for the community as well. We have very complex problems there that we need to address and we are doing our best," Zagala said.

Capt. Rowena Muyuela, Western Mindanao Command spokesperson, earlier said the incident took place around 8:30 a.m. Monday as 40 civilians and 10 members of the Barangay Peacekeeping Action Team (BPAT) were on their way to celebrate Hari Raya.

Muyuela said the victims were aboard two "Tamaraw" vans which were fired upon by a force of 50 ASG terrorists headed by Idang Susukan and Sibih Pisih.

She said that 16 persons were immediately killed and 13 others were wounded before the ASG fled.

The wounded civilians were immediately brought to IPHO Jolo for medical attention after being initially given first aid by responding Marines.

Unfortunately, five more wounded victims died bringing the total number of killed to 21 Monday night, seven of which are males including a two-year-old boy and 14 females.

Muyuela said the motive for the ambush is a retaliatory action against the BPAT who is supporting the military and police in law enforcement operations in the province particularly against the ASG in Talipao.

Earlier, reports said "rido," or clan war, instigated the incident. (PNA/AP/Sunnex)

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