MANILA: Three soldiers were shot dead by still unidentified gunmen on the island province of Basilan in Mindanao ahead of the signing of a framework agreement aimed at bringing lasting peace to troubled Southern Philippines, police reported on Sunday.
Police said each of the soldiers were on board motorcycles while returning to their barracks when they were attacked in a “barangay” (village) in Lamitan City, Basilan Saturday afternoon.
The soldiers were declared dead on arrival with multiple bullet wounds at the nearest hospital, according to the police.
No group has claimed responsibility for the killings but police said they are looking into the possible involvement of the Al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf extremists who operate in Basilan.
Security experts have confirmed the link of the Abu Sayyaf blamed for a series of kidnap-for-ransom cases of Filipinos and foreigners in Mindanao to the global Al Qaeda terror network through the Indonesia-based Jemaah Islamiyah extremists.
Basilan is a component province of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) along with Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Tawi-Tawi and Sulu as well as Marawi City.