MANILA Troops from the Army's 104th Infantry Brigade were able to repel a combined assault of an estimated Abu Sayyaf Group and Bangsomoro Islamic Freedom Fighters attackers in Lamitan City, Basilan but at the cost of six wounded soldiers.
Fighters from the Nur Misuari rebel group were also spotted.
Col. Carlito Galvez, 104th Infantry Brigade commander, said the attack started around 9:55 a.m. when the attackers tried to enter Lamitan City.
He added the ASG and BIFF were blocked by troops from their 18th Infantry Battalion and 9th Scout Ranger Company.
Galvez said that the attackers were planning to overwhelm the ARMM DPWH satellite building which was located near the pier in Lamitan City.
"They were attacking (from) different directions and were very resolute in their attacks (despite their Thursday setback). But our soldiers in the 104th Infantry Brigade and my two other battalions will defend Lamitan City and all the civilians," he stressed.
Galvez also said that it is possible that Friday's assault, which lasted for two hours, is a diversionary tactic in wake of the hostage crisis in Zamboanga City.
"Most probably it is related to the Zamboanga City issue. Maybe the ASG wants to get leverage from the BIFF and the Moro National Liberation Front to further broaden their recruitment base to continue spreading their brand of terrorism in Isabela and Lamitan," he added.
But as of now, Galvez said the situation in Lamitan has normalized with commerce resuming.
"Some movement was restricted and Christian communities outside Lamitan were told to evacuate to avoid needless civilian casualties. The Department of Social Welfare and Development is now giving humanitarian assistance to these individuals," he added. (PNA)