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ASG man involved in drugs killed in clash

ZAMBOANGA CITY (PNA) – A suspected member of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) involved in the illegal drug trade was killed while five soldiers were wounded in a clash early Friday, a top military official announced.

Col. Juvymax Uy, Joint Task Force Basilan commander, said the clash occurred around 7:30 a.m. Friday in Sitio Block 41, Barangay Bohe Pahuh, Ungkaya Pukan.

Uy said the encounter started after troops raided the suspect’s hideout while conducting law enforcement operation.

Ungkaya Pukan Vice Mayor Joel Maturan identified the slain ASG member as Tules Pangamdas.

Uy withheld the identities of the five injured soldiers who belong to the Army’s 18th Infantry Battalion.

Maturan said Pangamdas utilizes the proceeds of his illegal trade to finance the operations of the ASG in Basilan province.

The troops recovered two firearms consisting of an M2 Carbine and an M-79 grenade launcher as well as hard drugs paraphernalia.

Meantime in Surigao del Sur, some Manobo Lumads from nine hinterland communities of this town fled their homes anew, fearing an imminent military operation and stricter checkpoints by government forces.

Residents started evacuating last Thursday after noticing the presence of military helicopters and a bomber plane hovering around their villages a day before, said Bishop Modesto Villasanta of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines, chairman of the human rights group Karapatan in Surigao del Sur.

The displaced residents are now taking refuge at Simowao Tribal Community School in the neighboring sub-village of Emerald, about nine kilometers away from the national highway.

Bishop Villasanta said the lumad evacuees are looking at transferring to a safer and bigger evacuation area later in the week.

The same tribal communities fled the area and stayed for a year at the provincial sports complex in Tandag City after the killing of two tribal leaders gripped the upland villages.

However, Col. Franco Nemesio Gacal, commanding officer of the Army’s 402nd Army Brigade based in Tandag City, explained that the military planes were passing by the sub-village of Han-ayan in this town and were not hovering around as the residents claimed.

Col. Gacal also described the presence of Army’s 75th Infantry Battalion, 36th Infantry Battalion and 6th Special Forces Battalion in the area as routine, and the passing military choppers and planes in the area was but normal as it is part of their route.