MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) - Suspected Abu Sayyaf group members burned down houses and fired at villagers during an attack in a town in Basilan province before dawn Saturday, leaving 11 people dead, including a baby.
Senior Superintendent Antonio Mendoza, Basilan provincial police director, said at least 70 gunmen, believed to be members of the Abu Sayyaf bandit group and former Moro Islamic Liberation Front members, raided Barangay Tubigan in Maluso town around 5:30 a.m..
The bandits burned down at least 5 houses and fired indiscriminately at the villagers and then quickly fled.
Among the fatalities were 1-year-old baby Karen Bucoy, 9-year-old Arjie Bucoy and Abigail Bucoy, 32, whose charred bodies were recovered from their gutted house.
The other fatalities were Estilito bacus, Benjie Laping, Timhaar Arakani, Uding Pagdalian, John Laping, Salima Salapuddin, Lorna Sahidda Salisa and 50-year-old Tawasil Idjiran.
The regional police office in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao said the bandits were led by Abu Sayyaf commander Puriji Indama.
Mendoza said the attack was motivated by Indama's personal grudge with the village's chieftain.
The attack came almost 10 hours after the rescue of 2 Chinese nationals Michael Tan and Oscar Lu from their Abu Sayyaf captors.
The 2 Chinese nationals were rescued in nearby Sumisip town around 8 p.m. Friday. The victims were abducted last November 10, 2009 from a plywood factory in Maluso town.
Several police and military teams have been dispatched to secure the village.
Not coming back
Police said at least 10 people were injured during the attack and 7 of them were badly burned.
Other villagers who accompanied 7 of the badly burned victims to Zamboanga City for treatment, said they were all sleeping when the attack happened.
Some of them, including Nur-aina Janad, one of the villagers, said they are not going back to Barangay Tubigan.
The youngest among those critically injured was 9-year-old Jabrian Laping. He sustained a second-degree burn and almost half his body was burned.
The boy's sister, Aurora Francisco, said they just had a Islamic celebration on Friday. She said they were celebrating the birthday of their prophet Mohammad, and the men in the village slept late.
Francisco said that the bandits could have been hiding in the vicinity of the village during the celebration and timed their attack. She said some of her neighbors were brazenly killed and gas lamps where thrown at their houses.
“Hindi na namin alam ano iyong gagawin namin. Babalik pa rin siguro kami kasi iyon 'yong bahay namin (We don't know what we're going to do. Maybe we will still return because we have no other home),” she said.
Kadil Jojo Sinolinding, regional health director, said he has formed a composite team to closely look after the 7 badly burned victims. He said the victims, mostly children, were brought to different hospitals in Zamboanga City and he received a report that some injured villagers were admitted to the Alano Hospital in Basilan province.
“I have also tasked health officials in Basilan to monitor and make sure all necessities of the victims are given immediately for their soonest recovery,” Sinolinding said. -- Reports from Leila Vicente and Jewel Reyes, ABS-CBN Zamboanga and Noel Alamar, radio dzMM