Thursday, September 21, 2006

Terrorist Group Targeted In Philippines

Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said that troops were on the verge of wiping out the country's most violent Muslim rebel group as one soldier was killed and 24 wounded in fresh clashes. More than 6,000 soldiers, backed by US intelligence and equipment, are fighting on the island of Jolo in the south to flush out about 200 Abu Sayyaf militants holed up in the interior. The Abu Sayyaf, linked to the regional militant network Jemaah Islamiah, has been blamed for the worst militant attack in the Philippines, a 2004 bombing of a ferry near Manila that killed over 100 people.
Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo
Four Jemaah Islamiah militants, including two suspects in the 2002 Bali bombings, are also believed in hiding with the Abu Sayyaf on Jolo. "We must stand fast and take the fight with them to their lairs and sanctuaries," Arroyo said in a discussion with Cabinet officials aired live on national television and radio. "Terrorist leaders and their cohorts are falling one by one. We are on the verge of wiping out the notorious Abu Sayyaf group permanently." The Abu Sayyaf, known for kidnap and ransom, has long been based on the islands of the Sulu Sea, which lies between the southern Philippines and eastern Malaysia. Several operations launched by the military, especially on the larger islands of Jolo and Basilan, have failed to curb the group as the rebels easily find sanctuary in interior villages.On Jolo, a Marine lieutenant was killed and 24 soldiers were wounded when security forces clashed with about 100 Abu Sayyaf in mountains near Maimbung and Patikul towns on Monday, a military spokesman said. Since August 1, about 20 soldiers and police officers have been killed and 80 wounded in the offensive on Jolo. An estimated 50 rebels have also been killed but less than a dozen bodies have been recovered. On Monday, troops seized about half a tonne of ammonium nitrate, a chemical commonly used in making bombs, from a ferry plying between Jolo and the major southern port of Zamboanga. Arroyo asked the public to remain vigilant to thwart attempts by militants to stage diversionary attacks elsewhere in the Philippines, encouraging people to report suspicious persons or cargo in bus stations, airports and seaports.