Southern Command chief Maj. Gen. Gabriel Habacon speaks to a soldier who is wounded in clashes in Jolo island. Four soldiers are wounded on Thursday 24 Aug 2006 in clashes with Abu Sayyaf on the restive southern island. (Mindanao Examiner)
ZAMBOANGA CITY (Mindanao Examiner / 24 Aug) Government forces killed an Abu Sayyaf militant in fierce fighting before sunrise Thursday in the southern Philippine island of Jolo, officials said.
Officials said four soldiers were also wounded in the clashes in the mountain village of Darayan at around 4 a.m. "The fighting is raging and four soldiers are wounded in Patikul this morning," Marine Brig. Gen. Mohammad Dolorfino, deputy chief of the Southern Command here, told the Mindanao Examiner.
Troops were pursuing the Abu Sayyaf when it clashed with the militants, killing one of them. "One Abu Sayyaf is dead and we recovered his M16 automatic rifle," Lt. Col. Susthenes Valcorza, a spokesman for the Southern Command, said in a separate interview.
He said more Abu Sayyaf militants were believed killed in renewed clashes since Wednesday. Two soldiers were killed and 17 more wounded on Wednesday's clashes that also left two Abu Sayyaf gunmen dead.
"We have human intelligence reports saying there were many Abu Sayyaf casualties and that those who died had been buried in shallow graves in the hinterlands by their companions," he said.
Security forces were relentless in the hunt for leaders of the Abu Sayyaf and two Jemaah Islamiya bombers Umar Patek and Dulmatin, who were believed with the group of local terrorists on Jolo island.
"There is operation going on in Jolo island and troops are pursuing the terrorists. The government offensive will not stop until we destroy the leaders of the Abu Sayyaf and two Jemaah Islamiya bombers," said Army Maj. Gen. Gabriel Habacon, commander of military forces in the southern Philippines.
Habacon was referring to Umar Patek and Dulmatin, tagged as behind the 2002 Bali bombings that killed more than 200 people in the Indonesian island resort.
The Philippine military tightened security in Jolo island after troops last week seized 6,000 blasting caps and ten sacks of ammonium nitrate used by the Abu Sayyaf group to manufacture improvised explosives.
The military said a man, Mujahiri Malik, who was allegedly transporting the explosives, was arrested, but his companion, a woman, had escaped and is being hunted by security forces.
The United States offered as much as $10 million bounty for Dulmatin and $1 million for Patek's capture and another $5 million for known Abu Sayyaf leaders, including Khadaffy Janjalani, its chieftain. President Gloria Arroyo also put up P100 million rewards for the capture of the group's leaders and their members dead or alive.