RP Army Chief Flies To Jolo Island To Lead Fight Vs Terrorists, Insurgents

August 13, 2007 at 9:06 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Philippine Army chief General Romeo Tolentino is welcomed at the Western Mindanao Command headquarters in Zamboanga City. (Mindanao Examiner Photo Service)

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / 13 Aug) – Philippine Army chief General Romeo Tolentino flew to Jolo island to lead fresh offensive against the al-Qaeda-linked terrorist groups Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiya.

Thousands of soldiers are on the island, about 950 kilometers south of Manila, where two Jemaah Islamiya bombers Dulmatin and Umar Patek are fighting alongside with the Abu Sayyaf.

Philippine military chief General Hermogenes Esperon on Monday said the two bombers helped local militants and other insurgents fight security forces that killed 26 soldiers since last week.

“We have a report that they were in the encounters,” Esperon said at news conference in Manila.

Jakarta tagged Dulmatin and Patek as behind the 2002 bombings in the island resort of Bali that killed 202 people, mostly tourists. They are believed to have fled in 2003 to the southern Philippines and provided bomb-making to Filipino terrorists.

The United States has offered as much as US$10 million bounty for Dulmatin’s capture and US$1 million for Patek’s and US$ 5 million for known Abu Sayyaf leaders under the Rewards for Justice System.

Jolo army chief Colonel Antonio Supnet said the two bombers and some leaders of the Abu Sayyaf were being protected by rogue members of the Moro National Liberation Front, which signed a peace treaty with Manila in 1996.

He said as many as 40 gunmen were killed in fierce clashes in Jolo island. Troops were also pursuing an Abu Sayyaf faction and members of another rebel group, Moro Islamic Liberation Front, implicated in the killing of 14 Marines, ten of whom beheaded and mutilated in ferocious battle last month.

President Gloria Arroyo had ordered Tolentino to “pitch camp in Zamboanga” and oversee the theater of operations from the Western Mindanao Command headquarters.

“I am sending my army chief to the frontlines where he can be near my soldiers,” she said.

Esperon on Sunday accompanied Defense chief Gilbert Teodoro to Jolo and Basilan island where they inspected troops and visited the wounded. (Mindanao Examiner)

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