August 24, 2006

Philippine troops kill 6 Muslim rebels in dawn raid

MANILA (Reuters) - Philippine troops killed at least 6
Muslim guerrillas after a dawn swoop on their camp on the
remote southwestern island of Jolo, a senior military official
said on Thursday.

Around 3,000 troops, backed by U.S. equipment and
intelligence, are hunting about 200 militants from the Abu
Sayyaf group, who regularly set up camp in the interior jungles
of Jolo. Two Indonesians suspected of carrying out deadly
bombings on the resort island of Bali in 2002 are also believed
to be hiding out with them.

Marines Brigadier-General Juancho Sabban said four soldiers
were wounded in the clash with around 80 members of Abu Sayyaf,
the smallest of four Muslim rebel groups in the mainly Roman
Catholic country.

The rebels, who are believed to be sheltering Indonesians
Umar Patek and Dulmatin, killed two commandos and wounded 17
others in fierce fighting on Wednesday.

Security forces are trying to stop Abu Sayyaf and members
of Jemaah Islamiah, a movement seeking an Islamic superstate in
parts of Southeast Asia, from using southern Philippine islands
as bases to train and plot attacks in the region.

Despite numerous offensives on Jolo, including one with
5,000 troops in 2004, Abu Sayyaf leaders and their foreign
colleagues have eluded capture.

Muslim separatists in the southern Philippines have been
seeking greater independence since the 1960s in a conflict that
has cost more than 120,000 lives and stunted development of the
resource-rich region.

Abu Sayyaf, with around 400 members, is blamed for the
Philippines' worst terror attack, a bombing on a ferry near
Manila in February 2004 that killed more than 100 people.