Monday, November 28, 2005

Report #31 on the Era of Peace

Link to Original

From Arab News

19 Killed as Philippine Troops Clash With Extremists and Communists
Al Jacinto & agencies

ZAMBOANGA CITY, 26 November 2005 — At least 19 people were killed as sporadic fighting continued yesterday in the southern Philippines and a province close to Manila, officials said.

The military claimed that about 15 suspected guerrillas of the extremist Abu Sayyaf group were killed after a wave of air strikes and ground assaults on the island of Jolo, about 950 kilometers south of Manila.

Brig. Gen. Nehemias Pajarito, an army 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.

Troops were pursuing the militants in Mount Tumatangis where the rebels has split into smaller groups, added Air Force Maj. Gamal Hayudini, chief of information of the military’s Southern Command.

“The fighting is now concentrated in Mount Tumatangis where the terrorists are holed out,” he said, adding, that a soldier was killed on Thursday and that eight more were wounded in fierce clashes in the mountain.

Two Italian-made S-211 trainer jets fitted with rockets and bombs and two US-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 Islamiyah.

The 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.

In Quezon province, about 120 kilometers southeast of Manila, three people were killed in an overnight running gunbattle between government troops and communist rebels, a military report said yesterday.

The fighting erupted late Thursday when four jeepneys loaded with about 50 communist rebels opened fire at soldiers as they passed through an army checkpoint in Candelaria town.

One rebel was immediately killed in the firefight, while others fled to nearby villages, the military report said.

One soldier was killed and two others were wounded in subsequent firefights with the fleeing rebels in the hinterlands of Candelaria. A civilian was also killed in the crossfire.

Sporadic clashes have been erupting between government security forces and communist rebels in various towns of Quezon since Sunday.

School classes in Candelaria and the nearby towns of Sariaya and Dolores have been suspended due to the ongoing pursuit operations conducted by government troops. Fighting between the communist rebels and government security forces has been on the rise since peace talks were suspended last year.

Communist rebels have been fighting the government since the late 1960s, making the movement one of the longest-running leftist insurgencies in Asia.


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