Sixteen Die in Muslim Separatist Ambush in Southern Philippines
Sixteen civilians were killed and 10 wounded in an ambush by Muslim separatist guerrillas in the southern Philippine province of North Cotabato, a military commander said Saturday.
The victims, including a two-year-old boy, were traveling separately in a truck, a mini-bus and a car on a highway near Carmen town on Friday when they ran into a roadblock manned by fighters of the Muslim separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), said Colonel Hermogenes Esperon.
As the vehicles stopped, the MILF members made the passengers get out, robbed some of them and forced all of the civilians into the mini-bus before unleashing a hail of gunfire at them, Esperon said.
Rodel Tiburcio, a survivor, said in a radio interview that he dropped to the floor of the mini-bus as the shooting began. The bodies of the others fell on top of him.
He escaped unscathed by playing dead under the bodies until he was found by local residents.
Esperon said the MILF rebels who took part in the ambush were heading to Kabacan town, also in North Cotabato, to join forces fighting the government in that area.
He said he knew where the MILF attackers were and added the military would soon launch an offensive against them.
However, MILF spokesman Eid Kabalu said it was unlikely the Muslim guerrillas were behind the incident, as they did not attack civilians.
In recent weeks, MILF guerrillas have been blamed for a series of attacks against civilians in the southern Philippines.
A rampage in Sultan Kudarat province on July 31 claimed the lives of three villagers while 14 Christians were killed in an ambush in Lanao del Sur province on July 22nd.
The attacks are believed to be part of the "jihad" declared by MILF chairman Hashim Salamat after the government overran the rebels' main Mindanao base last month, forcing their chieftain to flee abroad -- COTABATO, Philippines (AFP)
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