Wed, Oct 10, 2007 - Page 5 News List

Philippine military searches for rebels after Jolo clashes


Philippine troops searching for Muslim militants clashed with al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf guerrillas in a southern town, killing one rebel, the military said yesterday.

Soldiers in Jolo island's Talipao town, backed up by the air force, opened fire on a group of 40 to 50 rebels on Monday and were still verifying if any of the Abu Sayyaf leaders wanted by Philippine and US authorities were among the guerrillas.

One rebel was killed, but there were no casualties among government troops, said Major General Ruben Rafael, commander of the Joint Task Force Comet.

"We are still verifying if there are high-value targets in the encounter," he said.

Abu Sayyaf leaders on the run include Radullan Sahiron, Umbra Jumdail -- also known as "Dr Abu Pula" -- and Albader Parad.

Abu reportedly harbored two Jemaah Islamiyah operatives -- Indonesians Dulmatin and Umar Patek -- for several months in his mountain stronghold on Jolo last year.

Washington has offered a US$100,000 reward for him and US$15,000 for Parad.

Rafael said the three wanted terrorists are still believed to be hiding on Jolo.

"We have a naval blockade in place to prevent their escape," he said.

Government forces, backed by US military intelligence, have launched a manhunt to track down the militants after a series of clashes on Jolo and nearby Basilan island left more than 50 troops dead -- some of them beheaded -- in July and August.

The military estimates that the Abu Sayyaf, which has been blamed for deadly bombings, high-profile ransom kidnappings and beheadings, has about 300 to 400 guerrillas, down from more than 1,000 during its heyday in early 2000.

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