3 killed in Basilan clash between military, MILF

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 10) Military officials confirmed three soldiers were killed and several others were injured in a clash between government troops and members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in Basilan on Tuesday.

"Yung casualties namin is ano, may tatlong KIA (killed in action) kahapon, tapos total ng WIA (wounded in action) namin is 13," Joint Task Force Basilan Commander BGen. Domingo Gobway said on Thursday.

[Translation: Three were killed in action, and we have a total of 13 wounded in action.]

There has been no confirmation on fatalities from the MILF side, but CNN Philippines is verifying reports that at least four MILF fighters were also killed in the skirmishes.

According to an earlier statement from the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity (OPAPRU), an armed incident between forces of the 101st Infantry Brigade and members of the MILF in Barangay Ulitan, Ungkayan Pukan, Basilan broke out on Nov. 8.

In a separate statement on Tuesday, OPAPRU appealed to the MILF "to stay the course and work together with the ceasefire mechanisms and government forces to uphold the ceasefire agreement."

On Wednesday, Mohagher Iqbal -- chairman of the MILF Peace Implementing Panel -- released a statement saying the armed encounter "was an unfortunate incident that no one desired to happen."

"The MILF Peace Panel calls on the parties' immediate disengagement to prevent the situation from escalating and ensure the safety and well-being of Barangay Ulitan's residents," he added.

In an interview with reporters Thursday, AFP Western Command Spokesperson Lt Col. Abdurasad Sirajan said, "Ang umiiral pa rin dito yung protecting the primacy of the peace process, hindi pwede yung ganitong klaseng small incident ay maapektuhan yung gains ng peace process. Malaki na yung gains e, nandyan na tayo sa governance."

[Translation: We are still for protecting the primacy of the peace process and cannot allow these small incidents to affect the gains of the peace process. The gains have grown, and we are now at governance.]

He added civilians fled the area when the fighting broke out.

"Nung nagkaroon na ng tension ay wala tayong ni isang civilian na naapektuhan," he said.

[Translation: Not one civilian was affected when tensions broke out.]

Basilan-based radio station DXNO also reported that about 1,500 families fled to safer ground.

In a statement later in the day, Cobway said members of the Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities of the government and MILF had arrived in the area to help settle the conflict, adding the firefight has stopped.

WMC Acting Commander BGen Arturo Roxas meanwhile said they were employing ceasefire mechanisms to pacify the situation

"We are also talking with respective Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) of MILF and the Government of the Philippines (GPH) in Basilan as well as with the national level represented by Presidential Assistant of the GPH Implementing Panel, OPAPRU, David Diciano who is now here at WestMinCom, to halt the tension triggered by miscommunication," he said.

Roxas added they were "on top of the situation" and at the same time they were working for peace.

In their statement, the MILF said in partnership with the government peace panel, they would work to strengthen various peace mechanisms.

"I also assure our partners and the peacebuilding community that the MILF is firmly committed to implementing the CAB (Comprehensive Agreement of the Bangsamoro) and realizing long-term peace, justice, and prosperity in the Bangsamoro," said Iqbal.

CNN Philippines' David Santos and Pia Garcia contributed to this story.