Sayyaf Targets Journalists, Civilians In South RP

August 24, 2007 at 7:58 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

A ferry from Basilan island in southern Philippines prepares to dock in Zamboanga City. Security forces are battling Abu Sayyaf militants in Basilan island where some 12,000 people have fled their homes because of the hostilities. Military authorities say Friday Aug. 24, 2007 that it uncovered an Abu Sayyaf plot to kidnap journalists and civilians in Basilan and Jolo islands and use them as shield against pursuing soldiers. (Mindanao Examiner Photo Service)

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / 24 Aug) – Abu Sayyaf militants whose group is tied to al-Qaeda terror network may be planning to seize journalists and civilians and used them as shield against security forces pursuing them in the southern Philippines, the military said Friday.

Militants have kidnapped and killed journalists and civilians in the past and the military is taking the new threats seriously.

Security officials were worried that any new kidnappings may affect the offensive against the Abu Sayyaf in Basilan and Jolo islands. The military blamed the Abu Sayyaf for a bomb attack Tuesday in Zamboanga City that left 14 people injured.

Colonel Rustico Guerrero, Marine commander in Basilan island, said the operation against the militants is ongoing and that troops were tracking down the Abu Sayyaf which has split into smaller groups.

“Our soldiers are tracking down the terrorists in the hinterlands. They don’t stay in one place or encampment anymore as troops are pursuing them,” he said.

Lt. Gen. Eugenio Cedo, chief of the Western Mindanao Command, said he ordered troops to intensify their hunt for the Abu Sayyaf in Basilan and Jolo islands. “We will give them no space. We will destroy them,” he said.

President Gloria Arroyo was in Basilan on Thursday and inspected about 200 soldiers who were among some 5,000 sent on the island to crush the Abu Sayyaf.

She spoke and shook hands with troops and ate lunch together with them on a long table laid out on a grassy area in Tabiawan village.

“Thank you very much for all your sacrifice. We are fighting terrorism here,” she said.

She said the troops in Basilan island must be accorded honors for the heroism in fighting the Abu Sayyaf. “You are all worthy of praises and honor,” she said.

The fighting in Basilan island had already killed over 40 Marines since last month and security forces are also battling another faction of Abu Sayyaf group and insurgents in the neighboring island of Jolo, where 15 Marines were slain.

Arroyo, accompanied by Armed Forces chief Gen. Hermogenes Esperon also met military commanders in Zamboanga City on Thursday where she gave orders to destroy the Abu Sayyaf group, blamed by authorities for the spate of terrorism and kidnappings of foreigners in the southern Philippines.

Esperon said the military will hit any confirmed Abu Sayyaf locations in Basilan and Jolo. “I tell you it will only be a matter of time before we get their leaders.

This is it, our operations will not stop until the Abu Sayyaf is neutralized,” he said.

Both the United States and Philippine governments have linked the Abu Sayyaf movement to Usama bin Laden. And Washington tagged the Abu Sayyaf group as a foreign terrorist organization and offered as much as five million dollars reward for the capture of its known leaders.

The Abu Sayyaf and Moro National Liberation Front insurgents are said to be protecting Jemaah Islamiya bombers Dulmatin and Umar Patek. Both Indonesians were implicated in the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people, including 88 Australian holiday-makers. (Mindanao Examiner)

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