JOLO, Philippines — At least seven people were injured when shells fired by the military against a Muslim rebel group holding two hostages hit an evacuation center on a southern Philippine island, victims said Thursday.
At least two cannon shells landed late Wednesday on a school building and two others landed near a flag pole at the school in Patikul town on Jolo island being used as temporary shelter by civilians fleeing clashes between soldiers and members of the Muslim extremist group Abu Sayyaf.
There was no immediate comment from army spokesmen.
Norinda Alih, one of those wounded, said she and the others were preparing to go to sleep when the shelling started.
Alih, who was hit by shrapnel in the chest, was taken to a hospital in Jolo’s capital.
The military said 151 rebels have been killed and 157 others have surrendered since a rescue operation for 19 hostages was launched Sept. 16. Six soldiers and three government militiamen have also been killed in more than 80 clashes, the military said.
Seventeen of the hostages have been recovered during the rescue operation, leaving only American Jeffrey Schilling and Filipino Roland Ulla still in rebel hands.
The Abu Sayyaf says it is fighting for an independent Islamic state in the southern Philippines, but the military regards it as a bandit gang.