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Three al Qaeda-linked rebels killed in Philippines

Philippine soldiers killed three al Qaeda-linked extremists in a gun battle in the southern Philippines on Sunday, a military commander said.

world Updated: Sep 12, 2011 14:47 IST

Philippine soldiers killed three al Qaeda-linked extremists in a gun battle in the southern Philippines on Sunday, a military commander said.

The battle with members of Abu Sayyaf, a local militant group in the strife-torn island of Basilan, was proof of the military's continuing efforts to combat terrorism even a decade after 9/11, said colonel Alexander Macario.

"This shows we have been relentless in waging war on terrorism in this part of the country," he said.

Macario's anti-terror task force tracked down a band of Abu Sayyaf militants and killed three extremists, the colonel said, forcing the rest to flee the gunfight leaving the dead bodies behind.

He said the band engaged by his task force was linked to a series of kidnappings in the south in recent years, including the abduction of a Sri Lankan peace activist in 2009.

The Abu Sayyaf is a small group of Islamic militants founded in 1990 with al Qaeda funding and has been blamed for the nation's worst terrorist attacks, including a ferry bombing that killed more than 100 in 2004.

The group is also wanted for the kidnapping of three US citizens in 2001, two of whom died while in captivity.

The Philippines is a major non-NATO ally of the US, and American troops have been stationed in Basilan and other areas of the southern Philippines since early 2002 to train local forces in how to combat the Abu Sayyaf.

But the group, believed to have just a few hundred militants, survives with the support of local Muslim communities and its ability to raise funds with kidnapping for ransom and other crimes.