MILF members burn school buildings in Basilan - military

By LEILA D. VICENTE, ABS-CBN News Zamboanga

Posted at Mar 29 2009 06:47 PM | Updated as of Mar 30 2009 02:48 AM

ZAMBOANGA CITY – The Armed Forces’ Western Mindanao Command (WesMinCom) has alleged that suspected members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) burned down some buildings of Erely Elementary School in Sumisip town in Basilan province early Friday morning.

1st Lt. Steffani Cacho, WestMinCom spokesperson, said the incident in Barangay Central was perpetuated by a group led by Omar Ladjala alias Tomo and three others who are reportedly MILF members. Cacho said they were members of a “lawless MILF group.”

Some residents reportedly witnessed the group of Ladjala fleeing the vicinity of the school right after the incident.

The military said it believes that the incident was initiated as a retaliation of the MILF after residents committed to give their support to the military against lawlessness in their area.

Rear Admiral Alexander Pama, Task Force Trillium chief, visited Sumisip town last week to solicit support from the local government as well as from the residents.

The task force, composed of police and military units, was formed to address the problem of kidnappings in the province of Basilan.

Troops of Marine Battalion Landing Team-1 reportedly encountered last week suspected MILF members in Barangay Baiwas in Sumisip town.

During the firefight, one soldier was killed while five others were wounded.

The Marines unit was reportedly conducting search and rescue operations for kidnap victim, Lea Lapping Patris , when it encountered the suspected MILF group allegedly in Sitio Bohe Piat in Barangay Baiwas in Sumisip town.

Patris has been held captive for almost two months now.