ZAMBOANGA CITY: The Philippine military said on Friday it disarmed a powerful bomb planted at a karaoke house outside a military base in the southern province of Sulu where troops are battling Abu Sayyaf rebels.
Captain Maria Rowena Muyuela, a spokeswoman for the Western Mindanao Command, said the improvised explosive was discovered by civilians in the village of Busbus in Jolo town, just 50 meters from the headquarters of the 2nd Marine Brigade.
The bar is frequented by soldiers and located just beside a road where military trucks and tanks pass.
Muyuela said the bomb, made from ammonium nitrate concealed in a cooking gas cylinder, was connected to nine batteries and cellular phones that could trigger detonation.
She said members of the military’s bomb disposal unit disarmed the improvised explosive.
The foiled bombing came a day after troops clashed with rebels in Talipao town that left at least 40 people dead and wounded in the village of Gata.
Muyuela said at least nine Abu Sayyaf gunmen and two soldiers were slain in the fighting. She said at least 14 rebels and 15 soldiers were also wounded in the fierce clashes.
Troops from the 32nd Infantry Battalion clashed with about 200 rebels under Abu Sayyaf leader Radulan Sahiron and his lieutenant Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan for two hours until the gunmen split into smaller groups and fled.
Muyuela said the military operation against the Abu Sayyaf will continue until their leaders are neutralized. “This [operation]will continue without let-up and until their leaders and members are neutralized,” she told The Manila Times.
It was not immediately known whether Radulan or Hatib were killed or wounded in the battle.
“Intensified law enforcement operation is being undertaken by government troops, local police authorities and are being supported by the local government to expedite the arrest of these lawless groups which is responsible for the series of kidnappings, bombings and other atrocities in the province and adjacent areas,” Muyuela said.
In Sulu, Capt. Eugene Bulao, a spokesman for the anti-terror Joint Task Group Sulu, said the wounded soldiers were being treated at a military hospital in Jolo town. “They are being attended to by our medical team,” he said.
The Abu Sayyaf is still holding several Filipino and foreign hostages it seized in different areas in the South and brought to Sulu.