Monday, September 21, 2009

Sulu fighting subsides; leaves Sayyaf gunman dead, 4 soldiers wounded

A private security guard is silhouetted by the sun as he mans his post at the Jolo port in Sulu province in the southern Philippines. Military and Abu Sayyaf militants clashed in Sulu’s Indanan town over the weekend, leaving a gunman dead and four soldiers wounded.

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / September 21, 2009) – Fighting subsided on Monday between security forces and al-Qaeda-linked militants in the southern Philippine province of Sulu, officials told the Mindanao Examiner.

Officials said four soldiers were wounded in the weekend fighting that also left one Abu Sayyaf militant dead in the hinterland of Indanan town. “We are now on a defensive position,” said Major Ramon David Hontiveros, a spokesman for the military’s Western Mindanao Command.

He said troops clashed with more than 200 militants in the town and that dozens had come from the nearby province of Basilan and reinforced the group of Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon.

It was unknown why the military failed to detect or intercept about 40 Abu Sayyaf gunmen who arrived by boat in Sulu on Sunday morning.

The fighting in the province erupted after security forces shelled suspected Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiya lairs in Indanan town, but a senior rebel leader of the Bangsamoro National Liberation Front, Madarang Sali, said the offensive targeted former Moro rebels under Khaid Ajibun.

Sali said the military attacked Ajibun’s camp without provocation, an accusation strongly denied by the military.

“We are not attacking the MNLF camp. The operation is directed at the Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiya position in the village of Buanza in Indanan town,” Hontiveros said.

Military and police intelligence reports said several Jemaah Islamiya terrorists are hiding and being by Abu Sayyaf militants in Sulu - among them are Mauiya, Dulmatin, Zulkifli bin Hir and Umar Patek - who are all wanted for the spate of deadly attacks in the Philippines and Indonesia, including the Bali bombing in 2002. The US has offered at least $16 million rewards for their capture.

The United States listed the Abu Sayyaf and the Jemaah Islamiya as foreign terrorist groups alongside with Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network.

Philippine authorities said the Jemaah Islamiya terrorists fled to Mindanao where they sought refuge under the protection of the Abu Sayyaf and rogue members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the country’s largest Muslim rebel group. (Mindanao Examiner)

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