MANILA, Philippines (UPDATE) – Fifteen fishermen were killed while 3 others were wounded in a sea attack off Basilan's east coast, the military said Tuesday.
Capt. Bayani Gaerlan, deputy commander for fleet operations of the Naval Forces Western Mindanao, said 3 pump boats carrying the unidentified gunmen approached the fishermen and shot them with assault rifles.
The fishermen were fishing in an artificial fish shelter or “payao” near Sibago island when the incident happened.
“They were fishing in a payao when suddenly, 3 pump boats arrived at pinagbabaril sila,” Gaerlan told ANC’s “Top Story”.
Gaerlan said one of the survivors, who was brought to the Zamboanga City Medical Center, told authorities that they had already been warned by the shelter’s owner against fishing in the area.
“The day before, pinapaalis na sila doon sa payao kasi hindi sa kanila ‘yon, may ibang may-ari. Hindi nila pinakinggan,” said Gaerlan.
Two of the wounded victims were brought to Zamboanga del Sur.
The victims were all residents of the southern city of Pagadian, about 160 kilometers (100 miles) to the northeast.
Lt. Col. Randolph Cabangbang, meanwhile, told Agence France-Presse that authorities had ruled out the potential involvement of Islamist militants or Muslim guerrillas, who are also active in Basilan.
Authorities are investigating the incident. -- With reports from Queenie Casimiro, ABS-CBN News Zamboanga, Agence France-Presse