Massacre in Army camp
- Roel Pareño () - April 9, 2007 - 12:00am
ZAMBOANGA CITY — An unidentified man went on a shooting rampage early last Saturday and killed nine soldiers in a military patrol base in Sulu.

Initial reports said the gunman, armed with an M-16 rifle, killed the soldiers as they were roused from sleep before he was shot dead by responding troopers at the base of the Army’s 35th Infantry Battalion in Barangay Silangkan in Parang.

"The suspect indiscriminately shot soldiers on sight before he was neutralized by the responding troopers who were mostly asleep during the incident," a military official said yesterday.

But there were unconfirmed reports that the soldiers were killed by an undetermined number of Abu Sayyaf militants in a surprise attack on the Army detachment.

Authorities said they were investigating whether the carnage was the handiwork of the Abu Sayyaf or the result of a squabble among the troops.

Army spokesman Lt. Col. Ernesto Torres said shots rang out during a power outage in the camp and troops from a nearby area rushed to the scene and found nine soldiers and the unidentified civilian sprawled dead on the ground.

Another soldier and the wife of one the slain troops were wounded, Torres said, adding that details about the clash remained sketchy.

"There was no power in the camp, suddenly a firefight erupted," Torres said. "Some soldiers came but were also fired upon. They later saw the 10 sprawled dead in the camp."

Initial reports said the unidentified civilian grabbed the M-16 rifle of a soldier guarding the camp and fatally shot him.

The intruder then managed to get hold of a light machine gun and opened fire, indiscriminately killing the other soldiers, until he himself was shot to death by other troops, sketchy reports said.

The military’s Western Mindanao Command (Wesmincom) confirmed the incident but declined to issue any statement pending an investigation.

The Sulu provincial police said they are still determining what could have triggered the suspect to run amok.

Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) police director Chief Superintendent Joel Goltiao said they are investigating the incident and identifying the attacker.

It was unclear in the initial reports if the gunman is a soldier or a civilian.

There were text messages circulating that the attacker was a civilian but some military officials based in Sulu insisted he was a soldier initially identified as a certain Eday.

"It seems the military is keeping the incident under wraps (for the) meantime. We really don’t know why," a senior education official in Sulu told reporters in a text message.

Sulu has been traditionally known for its "sabil," or warriors committing suicidal attack.

The region is also a known lair of the extremist Abu Sayyaf which has been the subject of a massive manhunt by the military under Oplan Ultimatum.

The incident occurred in the patrol base established by the Army to augment troops pursuing the Abu Sayyaf in the region.

The attack prompted the military to impose tighter security in all its camps to avert a similar incident, according to the source. -With John Unson, AP, AFP

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