By UCA News
Fifteen fishermen were killed and three others wounded when unidentified armed men opened fire on them while fishing off Basilan province, the military said today.
Lt. Col. Randolph Cabangbang, spokesman of the armed forces’ western Mindanao command, said the fishermen, who all came from nearby Zamboanga del Sur province, may have been attacked for encroaching on lucrative fishing grounds.
Cabangbang said the 18 fishermen were aboard three boats off Sibago Island when attacked by the gunmen, believed by the military to also be local fishermen.
“In Basilan and Sulu, the fishermen maintain turfs. If you intrude into their turf, you will be in danger,” said Cabangbang.
The 15 bodies are now in Pagadian City, he said.
Cabangbang played down the possible involvement of the terrorist group Abu Sayyaf, saying it is mainly known for kidnapping. “The Abu Sayyaf will kidnap you first. They are not going to strafe you, they will kidnap you,” he said.
However, army commander Col. Ricardo Visaya in Basilan said only four were confirmed dead, 11 missing, one hospitalized and two were survivors. He said search and rescue operations continued.
He said he did not know where the information about the deaths of 15 fishermen came from.
Told of Visaya’s statement, Cabangbang said the initial information was given by one of the wounded, who is at a Zamboanga City hospital.
“My troops are the ones involved in the search. As of now, we have accounted for four bodies, and there are two survivors and one was wounded. As of now, 11 are still missing,” said Visaya.
Visaya said there were at least six to seven suspects aboard three outrigger canoes.