MANILA (Reuters) - About 70 Islamic militants raided a village on a remote southern island in the Philippines on Saturday, killing 11 people, displacing hundreds and torching houses, officials said.
Troops rushed to reinforce a civilian militia force defending Tubigan village, on the southern island of Basilan, from Abu Sayyaf militants avenging the death of a senior leader on nearby Jolo island, said army spokeswoman Lieutenant Steffani Cacho.
“The villagers were asleep when the rebels came and started spraying houses with automatic gunfire, setting them on fire,” Cacho told reporters, adding 10 civilians and a member of the local militia were killed.
She said nearly 20 others were wounded, including four children who suffered third-degree burns. Hundreds of residents were also displaced. “Those in critical conditions were taken to hospitals in Zamboanga City on the mainland,” she added.
The attack came hours after security forces rescued two Chinese nationals held captive for nearly four months by Islamic militants in another part of Basilan.
On Sunday, soldiers killed a leader of al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf, Albader Parad, and five others in a two-hour fire fight in a forest on nearby Jolo. His death could set back the militants’ plans to disrupt elections in the south.
The military has been expecting the small but violent Abu Sayyaf group, known for kidnappings, bombings and beheadings, to launch retaliatory attacks for Parad’s death.
Reporting by Manny Mogato; Editing by Alex Richardson