Thursday, January 18, 2007

Philippines President Vows Pressure On Islamic Militants

Philippines President Gloria Arroyo pledged to keep up the pressure on Islamic militants with links to Al-Qaeda, one day after the military said it had slain the group's main leader. "The relentless pressure we have applied in the field is taking its toll and we will keep it up until all the terrorists and their clandestine cells are accounted for," Arroyo said in a statement. She commended troops for the reported killing of Abu Solaiman, described by the military as the most important leader of the Abu Sayyaf group. Arroyo said her government would work more closely with the United States to tighten the "dragnet and stop the movement of terrorists" and funds used by such groups across Southeast Asia. The Philippines military said Solaiman, also known as Jainal Antel Sali, was killed Monday in a clash with Filipino special forces on Jolo island, where over 5,000 troops had mounted a months-long manhunt.
President Gloria Arroyo
The US government had earlier offered up to five million dollars for the capture of Solaiman, who allegedly masterminded a string of deadly bombings including a 2004 attack on a ferry that killed over 100 people on Manila Bay. He is also accused of having planned the kidnapping of American Christian missionary couple Martin and Gracia Burnham and Peru-born Californian Guillermo Sobero. The two men were killed in captivity but Gracia Burnham was later rescued. The military earlier claimed it had recovered the decomposing body of a man they believed was top Abu Sayyaf leader Khadaffy Janjalani, who was supposedly killed in a clash in September. US forensics experts are helping Filipino authorities confirm the identity of the corpse described as that of Janjalani. Philippines officials said Solaiman's presumed corpse would also undergo DNA testing. With the presumed deaths of the two Abu Sayyaf leaders, security forces said the group has now broken up into smaller groups operating in Jolo's dense jungles.
Western Mindanao military chief Lt. Gen. Eugenio Cedo (2R) inspect different kind of ammunitions and electronic materials used by the Abu Sayyaf in manufacturing crude bombs in Jolo island in Southern Philippines.
Two Indonesian militants from the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) network blamed for the October 2002 bombings on the Indonesian resort island of Bali are also believed to be hiding out there. "This government is determined to finish the job with a hand of steel against evil, and to usher in a durable peace through economic development, interfaith dialogue and international cooperation," Arroyo said. The Abu Sayyaf and JI are on the US government's list of foreign terrorist organizations with links to Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda network.