Thursday, August 10, 2006

Five Islamic Militants Detained In Southern Philippines Offensive

Five Filipino Islamic militants were detained on Wednesday in a military operation against two suspected Bali bombers said to be sheltering with local allies in the southern Philippines, the military said. The Abu Sayyaf gunmen were arrested after a brief dawn clash between the group and a unit of Marines near the town of Patikul on Jolo island, military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Bartolome Bacarro told reporters. Those arrested do not include Jemaah Islamiyah suspects Umar Patek and Dulmatin who are wanted in connection with the 2002 Bali nightclub attacks, he added. “As to their identities, we cannot yet disclose (the names of those arrested) because our troops are still in the area,” Bacarro said.The military launched the manhunt last week after receiving intelligence that the two Indonesian fugitives were sheltering with an Abu Sayyaf band led by its senior leader Khadaffy Janjalani. The Philippine military has acknowledged receiving surveillance help for this operation from the US military, which has deployed small numbers of Special Forces operatives in the southern Philippines. Janjalani is among five Abu Sayyaf leaders wanted by the United States government for the 2001 kidnapping of three of its citizens, including a Christian missionary couple. Two of the Americans died in Abu Sayyaf captivity. Asked if the military thought their principal quarry were still in the area, Bacarro said: “We do believe that they are still in the area. As to the areas where they were sighted, those we cannot disclose.” The military said last week that seven Abu Sayyaf members were killed in the land, air and sea operation.Three other suspected Abu Sayyaf members were also arrested last week as they tried to flee by boat. The US government has offered up to 10 million dollars for the capture of Dulmatin and one million dollars for Patek for their roles in the Bali bombings, which left more than 200 mostly foreign tourists dead. Filipino intelligence officials have said JI was building up links with Abu Sayyaf, considered a terrorist organization by the United States. The Abu Sayyaf is also believed to have ties with Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.