Filipino troops kill 10 Muslim extremists in raids
Hundreds of soldiers launched an assault on two jungle encampments of Al-Qaida-linked militants in the southern Philippines on Wednesday, killing 10 gunmen and seizing bombs that had been set to explode, military officials said.world Updated: Aug 12, 2009 18:51 IST
Hundreds of soldiers launched an assault on two jungle encampments of Al-Qaida-linked militants in the southern Philippines on Wednesday, killing 10 gunmen and seizing bombs that had been set to explode, military officials said.
The simultaneous, pre-dawn attacks on two Abu Sayyaf extremist group encampments on hilly Silangkum and Baguindam villages on Basilan Island sparked fierce fighting that continued to rage late in the day. The number of troop casualties was not known, Philippine navy Rear Admiral Alex Pama said.
About 500 army troops and marines targeted Abu Sayyaf chieftains Khair Mundus and Furuji Indama, but it was not immediately clear if they were among the slain militants, whose bodies were recovered by troops, said Pama, who helped oversee the assault. Military officials have blamed the two for past bombings and kidnappings.
Army soldiers and marines scouring the two captured Abu Sayyaf strongholds may find more dead militants, said regional military commander Maj Gen. Benjamin Dolorfino, adding troops were pursuing small pockets of fleeing gunmen.
More than 100 troops staged the actual attacks while more than 300 others blocked escape routes.
Troops found several bombs, booby traps and more than a dozen assault rifles in the militant stronghold in Silangkum, Pama said, adding the explosives have been safely detonated by troops. "The bombs were already primed to explode," Pama told The Associated Press by telephone, adding the explosives may have been intended for another wave of terror attacks.
The Abu Sayyaf, which has about 400 gunmen on Basilan and nearby Jolo Island and the Zamboanga peninsula, is on a US list of terrorist organizations because of bombings, ransom kidnappings and beheadings of hostages. The group is suspected of having received funds and training from Al-Qaida.
The Abu Sayyaf has been weakened by yearslong US-backed offensives, but has turned to kidnappings for ransom in recent months.
Security officials worry that ransom payments could revive the group and have been cracking down on the Abu Sayyaf in Jolo and Basilan, two predominantly Muslim regions, which are among the country's poorest.