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Sulu air, ground offensive continues

by AJLPP-USA Friday, Aug. 04, 2006 at 6:59 PM
magsasakapil@hotmail.com 213-241-0906 337 Glendale Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90026

The Navy captured four suspected Abu Sayyaf supporters yesterday as they tried to breach a naval blockade of Jolo, Sulu to flee the military’s artillery bombardment and air strikes, which continued for the third day yesterday. The offensive is targeting Abu Sayyaf chieftain Khadaffy Janjalani and Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) militants Umar Patek and Dulmatin who are wanted for the Bali bombings in Indonesia in October 2002.

Sulu air, ground offensive continues

By Roel Pareño

The Philippine Star 08/04/2006

ZAMBOANGA CITY — The Navy captured four suspected Abu Sayyaf supporters yesterday as they tried to breach a naval blockade of Jolo, Sulu to flee the military’s artillery bombardment and air strikes, which continued for the third day yesterday.

The offensive is targeting Abu Sayyaf chieftain Khadaffy Janjalani and Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) militants Umar Patek and Dulmatin who are wanted for the Bali bombings in Indonesia in October 2002.

Janjalani, Patek and Dulmatin were initially spotted in Central Mindanao but were able to slip through a military dragnet.

A senior military official said the ground and air assaults continued in the jungles of Indanan town in Sulu where the Abu Sayyaf and JI militants are believed to be holding out.

In a statement, Armed Forces Southern Command chief Maj. Gen. Gabriel Habacon said the Navy seized rifles from the four Abu Sayyaf suspects who are now undergoing interrogation.

On land, troops from the Army’s 35th Infantry Battalion under Lt. Col. Pablo Lorenzo caught up with fleeing Abu Sayyaf terrorists in Barangay Bunot in Sulu after heavy fighting.

The Abu Sayyaf gunmen tried to encroach on a six-square kilometer "no firing zone" agreed on by the military and the Moro National Liberation Front. Fighting also erupted near the border of Buansa, a designated evacuation center and peace zone.

Brig. Gen. Alexander Aleo, Task Force Comet chief based in Jolo, said fighting was still going on as of yesterday.

"We believed that the subject personalities we are hunting down are still there holed up in the area," he said.

Another military official, Army spokesman Maj. Ernesto Torres, said the suspected JI terrorists along with Janjalani may be training recruits in the area for future activities.

He said the operations of the army’s 104th infantry brigade and the 3rd Marine Brigade would continue operations in Indanan town until "gains are obtained."

"We have received information that the suspected terrorists are still in the area. And the continuous operations there imply that they are still there," he said.

Aleo said the Abu Sayyaf has already suffered an "undetermined number of casualties," but that he can only confirm three killed and two wounded on sight.

Habacon said two of the slain Abu Sayyaf suspects were identified as Harbi Ahajul and a certain Patta, believed to be the brother-in-law of Abu Sayyaf commander Ismin Sahiron.

"We intend to sustain the effort for the long-term," he said.

"We will continue the security patrols and we are prepared to stay to finish the job killing or capturing the lawless terrorists of the ASG and JI on land and on water," Habacon added.

The three other wounded are followers of Abu Sayyaf sub-commander Salip Abdullah, he said.

Aleo said the coordination with the MNLF is still holding as its forces had maintained their presence in their bases.

Khaid Ajibun, Sulu MNLF state revolutionary chairman, also sought to inform the military on the duration of the offensive so their forces will not be astray while the operation is going on.

The MNLF should be informed as to the type of military operation — whether air or artillery support — so they could relocate their combatants to safer grounds.

Some 275 families have been temporarily relocated ahead of the offensive and housed in schools in Bato-Bato and Buansa in Indanan town.

The military’s Sala’am, a civic and humanitarian mission unit, has begun the rebuilding efforts as soon as the area is secured.

The US government has offered up to million for the capture of Dulmatin and million for Patek for their roles in the 2002 nightclub bombings in Bali, Indonesia that left more than 200 mostly foreign tourists dead.

Regional intelligence officials say Dulmatin, an electronics and bomb expert trained in al-Qaeda camps in Afghanistan, is a senior JI member who is believed to have triggered the bombs in 2002.

Patek allegedly helped coordinate the attack.

It was not clear when the two entered Mindanao, but intelligence officials have said they were building up links with Abu Sayyaf, which like JI is considered a terrorist organization by the US.

The Abu Sayyaf made headlines in the late 1990s for carrying out large-scale bombings and attacks on mostly Christian targets in Mindanao.

By 2000, the terrorist band had branched out into kidnapping foreign tourists, missionaries and businessmen to fund their attacks.

Janjalani has a -million ransom on his head for the murder of a American missionary Martin Burnham and US tourist Guillermo Sobero in 2001 and 2002. — With AFP, James Mananghaya

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