Key Abu Sayyaf commander killed in Philippine military clashes

Apr 13, 2017, 00:53
Key Abu Sayyaf commander killed in Philippine military clashes

At least nine people, including a notorious rebel commander, have been confirmed killed in a clash between the Philippine military and the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group on the tourist island of Bohol, officials said Wednesday.

Philippine military chief General Eduardo Ano said on Wednesday that the army had recovered the remains of Moammar Askali, a senior leader of the Islamist militant group Abu Sayyaf.

Ano said the death of Askali is a "major blow to the Abu Sayyaf" and the group will "have to think twice" if it plans to kidnap innocent people.

The government lost three soldiers and a policeman in the battle that broke out Tuesday in a rural area of Bohol - one of the country's top tourism draws.

Military officials say at least six fighters, three soldiers and a policeman have died in the ongoing gunbattle in a village in the coastal town of Inabanga. Askali, who used the nom de guerre Abu Rami, had partly served as an Abu Sayyaf spokesman in recent years.

He was an emerging hard-line leader of Abu Sayyaf and had pledged allegiance to ISIL.

The Canadians had been taken from a marina by Abu Sayyaf gunmen along with a Norwegian man, Kjartan Sekkingstad, and Hall's Filipino girlfriend, Marites Flor.

It is the Abu Sayyaf's first known attempt to carry out ransom kidnappings deep in the heartland of the central Philippines, far from its jungle lairs in the southern provinces of Sulu and Basilan.

Bohol island is about an hour by boat from Cebu province, a trade and tourism centre, which has hosted some of the meetings of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the regional bloc the Philippines is leading this year. In 2001, they sailed as far as western Palawan province, where they seized 20 people, including three Americans, from a resort, two of whom were later killed.

Gen Ano said Askali had planned on snatching "four to five" tourists in Bohol.

Although they rely mainly on ransom kidnappings, Abu Sayyaf has displayed incredible resiliency and has survived through USA -backed military offensives under six presidents.

Philippine intelligence agencies got wind of the plot last week, and alerted the military and foreign counterpart agencies, though authorities lost track of the gunmen in the open seas. Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad, 56, was released a year ago after Askali received US$638,000 as ransom payment.

The German, Mr Jurgen Kantner, 70, a sailing enthusiast who survived after being held for almost two months by Somali pirates eight years ago, was beheaded in February, after talks for his release in exchange for a 30-million-peso (S$851,000) ransom collapsed.

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