Fri. 8:42 a.m.: Suspected militant attack on Philippine army camp kills 5

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Suspected Muslim militants attacked a Philippine military camp with explosives today in the country’s south, killing three soldiers and two civilians, military officials said.

Regional military commander Maj. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana said nine other soldiers were wounded in the “inhumane attack” by suspected Abu Sayyaf gunmen on the headquarters of an army brigade combat team in southern Sulu province’s Indanan town.

The military has deployed hundreds of troops to Sulu to bolster a months-long offensive against remnants of the Abu Sayyaf, which is blacklisted by the United States and the Philippines as a terrorist organization for bombings, ransom kidnappings and beheadings.

There were varying accounts of today’s attack.

Army spokesman Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala said without elaborating that there was an explosion at a checkpoint in front of the army camp, where fresh troops have just arrived, causing the deaths and injuries.

But an initial military report seen by The Associated Press blamed two “suicide bombers” for the deadly noontime attack.

It said one of the militants was accosted by troops but managed to detonate his bomb while the second man dashed into the camp and detonated an explosive near a parking lot.

Sobejana said troops were trying to validate that initial report.

“Ground troops continue to establish the circumstances and identify the perpetrators behind this inhumane attack,” Sobejana said.

“We will intensify our offensives to crush terrorist groups that hamper the stability and development in Sulu,” he said, adding that all military moves would be in accordance with the law.

Battle setbacks have reduced the number of Abu Sayyaf armed fighters to less than 400 and they no longer hold any hostages in their jungle bases in Sulu for the first time in years due to constant offensives and tightened security, military officials said.

In May, a long-held Dutch hostage, Ewold Horn, was killed when he made a dash to freedom during a fierce firefight between his Abu Sayyaf captors and army troops in Sulu’s mountainous Patikul town, the military said.

At least six militants were killed and 12 others were wounded in the nearly two-hour firefight, in which eight soldiers were also wounded, the military said. Among those killed was the wife of Abu Sayyaf commander Radulan Sahiron, a militant long wanted by the United States and the Philippines for banditry and assaults.