Thursday, July 28, 2011
ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / July 28, 2011) – Two government soldiers were killed and 21 others wounded in fierce clashes Thursday with Abu Sayyaf militants tied with Al-Qaeda in the southern Filipino province of Sulu, officials told the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner.
Officials said a military officer and four other soldiers were reported missing in the fighting that broke out in the town of Patikul at around 4:30 a.m. after security forces mounted fresh offensive against the militants believed to be holding a kidnapped Indian and a Malaysian national.
It was not immediately known whether the offensive codenamed “Wild Finger” was part of an operation to rescue the foreigners. Filipino troops, aided by US military intelligence, were fighting some 70 Abu Sayyaf gunmen.
There was no immediate reports of Abu Sayyaf casualties, but a security official said the target of the offensive were Radulan Sahiron and Isnilon Hapilon, leaders of the militant group who are believed to be harboring members of the Indonesian and Malaysian terrorists from Jemaah Islamiya and Kampulan Malaysia.
Filipino authorities have previously said that among those being protected by the Abu Sayyaf were Zulkifli bin Hir, Mauiya and Quayem.
Umar Patek, a suspect in the deadly 2002 Bali bombing, was previously hiding out in Sulu with the Abu Sayyaf before his capture in Pakistan in March. And also Dulmatin, who was tagged as among those behind the Bali bombing that killed 202 mostly tourists, was killed by security forces in Indonesia after fleeing Philippine military offensive in Sulu province.
The Abu Sayyaf, which means “bearer of the sword,” has been blamed by Philippine authorities to the spate of terrorism in the volatile southern region, where security forces are battling Muslim and communist insurgencies the past four decades. (Mindanao Examiner)