BASILAN, Philippines – Islamic militants killed 14 Philippine marines searching
for a kidnapped Italian priest during a major gunbattle, and later beheaded 10 of them, the
military said on Wednesday.
The troops were ambushed on the southern island of Basilan by a joint force from the Philippines” main Islamic rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf, a marine spokesman said.
Lieutenant Colonel Ariel Caculitan said 14 marines were killed in the eight-hour clash, increasing an earlier death toll after more bodies were recovered. Ten had been discovered beheaded, he said in Manila.
“All 10 marines earlier reported missing have been found dead,” Caculitan told
reporters, without explaining a discrepancy in earlier numbers.
“All were beheaded,” he added.
“Therefore, when ye meet the Unbelievers (in fight), smite at their necks…” – Qur’an 47:4.
He said earlier six were still missing after the gunbattle with about 200 militants near Tipo-Tipo town on Tuesday.
Some of the beheaded marines had been found by provincial authorities in
Basilan and been turned over to the military, other marines said.
Another nine were injured in the clash.
Intelligence reports said Italian priest Giancarlo Bossi, 57, was being kept in an area where MILF forces were known to operate and the troops had been sent in to investigate, said regional marine commander Ramiro Alivio.
About 80 marines clashed heavily with 300 MILF militants backed by Abu Sayyaf
fighters, after arriving there early Tuesday, said Colonel Alivio.