Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Report #54 on the Era of Peace

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Fresh clashes in south Philippines, 2 troops die
Tue 13 Dec 2005 4:54 AM ET
MANILA, Dec 13 (Reuters) - Two Philippine soldiers were killed and 11 wounded in fresh fighting on the remote southwestern island of Jolo with Islamic militants suspected to be linked to al Qaeda, an army general said on Tuesday.

A Marine platoon clashed with about 50 Abu Sayyaf rebels in mountains near the town of Patikul late on Monday, said Brigadier-General Alexander Aleo, commander of the military's counter-terrorism task force.

"Sporadic fighting continued today," Aleo told reporters. "We have no idea how many rebels were killed, but we were told they suffered heavy casualties."

Aleo said the troops were hunting down Radullan Sahiron, the Abu Sayyaf chief on Jolo, after receiving reports the rebels were planning an attack on nearby army camp.

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

An estimated 50 rebels had been killed, but only 12 bodies found, since fighting between government troops and Muslim rebels erupted in three areas on Jolo last month, Aleo said.

Nine soldiers had been killed and nearly 40 wounded since Nov. 11, when troops hunting the one-armed, horse-riding Sahiron clashed with militants near the town of Indanan, he added.

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

© Reuters 2005. All Rights Reserved.


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