Philippine Troops Comb Basilan Jungles For Abu Sayyaf Targets

August 21, 2007 at 5:47 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / 21 Aug) – Philippine troops on Tuesday combed the hinterlands of Basilan island as offensive against the Abu Sayyaf group intensified.

About 5,000 soldiers are pursuing about 200 Abu Sayyaf gunmen and insurgents in Basilan, scene of deadly clashes since last month. More than two dozen soldiers were killed in the fighting aimed at wiping out the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf group.

President Gloria Arroyo on Tuesday again ordered the military to crush the Abu Sayyaf – three days after 15 soldiers were slain in clashes near Ungkaya Pukan town.

Government offensive is also ongoing in Jolo island in Sulu Archipelago where troops are battling another faction of Abu Sayyaf and Moro National Liberation Front insurgents blamed for the killing of 27 soldiers this month.

Military officials involved in the offensive in Basilan island were not immediately available and ignored phone calls from journalists covering the fighting.

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which is negotiating peace with Manila, also ordered its forces Tuesday to give way for the government offensive in Basilan and avoid armed confrontation with security forces.

Last month, MILF forces killed 14 soldiers in fierce clashes after they entered a rebel stronghold without proper coordination while pursuing Abu Sayyaf militants tagged as behind the kidnapping of an Italian Catholic priest Giancarlo Bossi in Al-Barka town.

Troops were searching for Abu Sayyaf militants in the towns of Tipo-Tipo, Al-Barka and Sumisip, where thousands of civilians have fled for fear they would be caught in the cross-fire.

Security forces have shelled suspected hideouts of the Abu Sayyaf since Saturday after troops captured one of their bases in Ungkaya Pukan town.

But the military paid a high price for the capture of the terror base – 15 Marines were killed in the fighting and a combat copter pilot died after his aircraft crashed near the town. (Mindanao Examiner)

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