TWO young civilians were injured in an air strike conducted by an Air Force attack helicopter against a group of Abu Sayyaf terrorists in Al Barka town in Basilan, a military spokesman said yesterday.
Capt. Jefferson Somera, spokesman of the Army’s 1st Infantry Division, said the military shouldered the medical expenses of the two victims who incurred minor injuries.
Somera said that around 12:30 p.m. last Sunday, the 18th Infantry Battalion received information on the sighting of 11 Abu Sayyaf men in barangay Cambug, aboard five motorcycles.
The 11 bandits reportedly under Nurhasan Jamiri alias Abu Bekkat and Musana Jamiri proceeded to the coastline of Kalang, Sibubong Sand Bars also in barangay Cambug.
Somera said intelligence personnel, aboard motorized pump boat, were sent to verify the information. At around 1:10 p.m., the soldiers confirmed the presence of the bandits who they said were having a picnic.
At around 3:30 p.m., an Air Force aircraft sighted the group to be fleeing aboard a pump boat toward a mangrove area in Anang-anang village, also in barangay Cambug.
An MG-520 attack helicopter later delivered rockets on the Abu Sayyaf men.
Somera said two civilians who were about 30 meters from the impact area were hit by rocks shattered by the rockets.
“Their injuries are not serious; they were not hit by shrapnel. They were hit by rocks, their injuries are superficial,” Somera said.
Somera said the victims were brought to a hospital and one of them has been discharged.
Somera said there were no civilians in the area when the intelligence personnel conducted the reconnaissance. He said the civilians went near the location of the Abu Sayyaf during the air strike.
Somera could not immediately name the two but the Mindanao Human Rights Action Center Inc. (MinHRAC) identified them as Arkam Omar, 12, and Julia Haron, 18.
MinHRAC said, “According to their family and relatives, the two were part of an Arabic school picnic, known as madrasah, organized by their teachers when the incident took place.”
“The picnic was composed of students and teachers as well as parents. There were 70 persons who joined the picnic, as well as other civilians who were also in the beach but not part of the school excursion. According to the parents of the students, their children were traumatized by the incident,” it added.