MANILA — Muslim militants disguised as policemen and soldiers detonated bombs and opened fire yesterday in a series of coordinated attacks in a southern Philippine city, triggering clashes that killed 12 people.
About 25 Abu Sayyaf militants were involved in the attacks in Isabela on the island province of Basilan — one of the most daring operations by the Al Qaeda-linked group in recent months, Lieutenant General Benjamin Dolorfino, regional military commander, said.
Three marines and three militants were among the dead, including an Abu Sayyaf commander identified as Bensar Indama, who was wearing a police uniform. A policeman and five civilians also were killed, including one who died in a hospital in Zamboanga after being airlifted out, Dolorfino said.
Nine people were wounded by the blasts and gunfire, including two captured militants.
Isabela is one of two Christian regions on predominantly Muslim Basilan, the birthplace of the Abu Sayyaf, long blacklisted by Washington as a terrorist organization because of its involvement in kidnappings, bombings, and acts of banditry.
American counterterrorism troops based in a military camp in Isabela, about 550 miles south of Manila, were unaffected by the attacks and provided intelligence to help troops pursue the Abu Sayyaf gunmen, Rear Admiral Alex Pama said.