Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Sayyaf defies military offensive, bombs bridge in Sulu

Abu Sayyaf militants bombed a bridge in Sulu's Indanan town on Tuesday, September 29, 2009. The bombing came hours after militants blasted a US military vehicle in the town killing two counterterrorism soldiers. (Mindanao Examiner Photo / Nickee Butlangan).

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / September 30, 2009) – Suspected Abu Sayyaf militants have blown up a bridge in Sulu province in the southern Philippines, defying an all-out government offensive aimed at crushing terrorism that had killed two US soldiers on Tuesday.

Police on Wednesday deployed more forces in Indanan town after militants, backed by Moro rebels, bombed the bridge in the village of Bunot late Tuesday. It was the second bridge bombed by the Abu Sayyaf in a span of one week.

The attack came hours after a deadly roadside bombing that killed two US counterterrorism soldiers - SSG Jack Martin and SFC Christopher Shaw and a Filipino marine PFC Estrada – in Kagay village also in the town of Indanan.

A police post was also bomb on Tuesday morning in the village of Kasanyangan in Jolo town, but there were no reports of casualties.

“We have deployed more forces to protect the civilians from possible attacks by the Abu Sayyaf,“ said Senior Superintendent Muhibuddin Ismail, the provincial police chief.

US troops are deployed in Sulu since 2006 and assisting the Philippine military in defeating the Abu Sayyaf. Although security officials deny US forces were directly involved in combat operations, there were numerous reports from civilians that American soldiers actually participated in the operations aimed at capturing or killing militant leaders in Sulu and other areas in the restive southern region of Mindanao.

A US soldier was also killed and another wounded in a bomb attack at a roadside cafe near an army in Zamboanga City in October 2002.

Last week, eight Filipino soldiers were also killed after militants ambushed their truck in Indanan town. The military said at least 34 militants were also slain in the fighting, including an Abu Sayyaf sub-leader Ustadz Muktar, a cousin of militant leader Isnilon Hapilon, who is wanted by the US government for terrorism.

But of the 34 slain militants, only two bodies had been recovered by soldiers.

The Moro National Liberation Front, which signed a peace deal with Manila in September 1996, accused the military of attacking one of their bases in Indanan that killed two former rebels.

US Special Forces were aiding the Philippine military in the hunt for militants, according to Major General Benjamin Dolorfino, chief of the Western Mindanao Command.

He said the US military is providing intelligence to the local troops in the hunt for the Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiya militants in Sulu.

Dolorfino said troops were tracking down at least four most senior Abu Sayyaf leaders – Dr Abu, Albader Parad, Isnilon Hapilon and Yasser Igasan – including two foreign Jemaah Islamiya terrorists Mauiya and Quayem and some 200 followers.

The series of attacks occurred just as troops continue their operation against the Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiya militants tagged as behind the series of bomb attacks and kidnappings for ransom in Sulu, one of five provinces under the troubled Muslim autonomous region.

Madarang Sali, deputy supreme commander of the Bangsamoro National Liberation Front, said military offensive against the MNLF continues in Sulu. He said government operations were directed as MNLF leader Khaid Ajibunm who had escaped a military raid last week. (MIndanao Examiner)

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