MANILA -- The death toll from the ambush conducted by terrorist group Abu Sayyaf in southern Philippine province of Sulu on Monday has risen to 19, with 13 others injured.
The Abu Sayyaf gunmen, estimated at around 50, waylaid about 40 victims including children, who were on board two vehicles at around 8:30 a.m. local time in Lumapid village in Talipao town of Sulu, said Martin Pinto, commander of the Sulu-based 2nd Marine Brigade of the government troops.
The victims accompanied by 10 Barangay (village) Police Action Team (BPAT) members were on their way to a nearby village to celebrate the Eid al-fitr, which marks the end of the observance of Ramadan.
The 19 fatalities included 13 females and six males and some of them were children.
Pinto said Marine soldiers responded to the scene and helped with extricating of the dead and wounded victims. Soldiers were also deployed to conduct pursuit operations.
Rowena Muyuela, spokeswoman of the military's Western Mindanao Command in Zamboanga City said, "this is the retaliatory action of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) against the BPAT members who are supporting the AFP and Philippine National Police (PNP) in the conduct of law enforcement operations. That is the reason..."
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Public Affairs Office Chief Ramon Zagala said, "the AFP condemns this heinous atrocity that victimized innocent civilians. This attack cannot be justified by any ideology and shows the Abu Sayyaf's terrorist nature."
The 380-strong Abu Sayyaf Group, founded in the early 1990s by extremists, is a violent Muslim terrorist group operating in the southern Philippines. The ASG operates mainly in Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi Provinces in the Sulu Archipelago and has a presence on Mindanao.