Friday, November 25, 2005

Report #30 on the Era of Peace

Link to Original

Khaleej Times Online

Philippine troops kill 15 rebels after air strike


November 25, 2005

MANILA - Philippine soldiers killed about 15 suspected Islamic militants with ties to al Qaeda in a ground assault after a wave of air strikes on the southwestern island of Jolo, an army general said on Friday.

Brigadier-General Nehemias Pajarito, a brigade commander, said troops overran positions of the Abu Sayyaf rebels on Thursday around the perimeter of a well-entrenched hideout in the mountains near Indanan town.

Two Italian-made S-211 trainer jets fitted with rockets and bombs and two U.S-made OV-10B ground assault planes conducted air strikes on Thursday before the hour-long gunbattle.

“The enemy casualties were the result of a ground assault, not by the air strikes,” Pajarito told reporters. “But the bombing runs helped soften the targets, destroying concrete bunkers and forcing the rebels to come out from their trenches.”

Fifteen rebels had been killed, based on intercepted radio traffic and accounts by soldiers, but Pajarito said the toll could be much higher.

He said six soldiers were wounded in the assault on the third day of fighting in the mountains near Indanan and Patikul towns.

The military said six soldiers had been killed and 33 wounded since Nov. 11, when troops hunting a one-armed, horse-riding Abu Sayyaf commander clashed with a large group of militants on Jolo.

Last week, an estimated 25 rebels were killed in gunbattles in another part of Indanan town, but only three bodies were found at the scene.

Army officials said 2,000 troops were battling about 150 Abu Sayyaf rebels and rogue members of the Moro National Liberation Front, a larger Muslim separatist group that signed an Indonesian-brokered peace deal with the government in 1996.

Abu Sayyaf, with about 400 fighters, is suspected of links to al Qaeda and the regional militant network Jemaah Islamiah.

Abu Sayyaf is blamed for a series of bombings in the southern Philippines and Manila in the last three years, including the country’s worst terror attack -- the bombing of a ferry near the capital in February 2004 that killed more than 100 people.

The military has been hunting Radullan Sahiron, the Abu Sayyaf chief on Jolo, after police apologised for mistakenly arresting a man who turned out to be missing the wrong arm.

Sahiron is wanted for a series of high-profile kidnappings, including the abduction of 21 tourists and resort workers from Sipadan island in Malaysia in May 2000. He has a bounty of 5 million ($92,000) on his head.


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