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Philippine military in pursuit of 30 Abu Sayyaf, Jemaah Islamiyah members

At least 30 Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) and Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) members who survived a military air strike Thursday in Sulu are on the run and being pursued by government troops, the Armed Forces of the Philippine (AFP) said in a briefing Friday.
What remains of the groups are the target of continuing military operations, AFP spokesman Col. Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos told reporters in Quezon City’s Camp Aguinaldo.
“We cant say if there are wounded among them but we are after 30 personalities in the general area,” said Burgos.
The AFP maintained that 15 ASG and JI leaders and members died in Thursday’s airstrikes in Mindanao’s Sulu province, noting their bodies were retrieved and buried by their comrades after the assault by two OV-10 planes.
Also, Burgos noted the military is now trying to coordinate with families of the slain terrorists so that the bodies can be retrieved, saying the location where the dead were buried have been pinpointed by military assets on the ground.
“To us, this is already confirmed, but we have to prove that through DNA testing... Based on our assets, we are already confirming it…They were brought to different locations but we will come to that. We’ll have to prove this because this requires DNA testing,” said Burgos.

“This is our effort right now: to coordinate with the local authorities for the cooperation of the relatives because in determining DNA, we have to get DNA samples,” the military spokesman also said.
'A blow to transnational terrorism'

In a Reuters report Friday, Leslie Basset, US deputy ambassador to the Philippines, told reporters during a visit to Mindanao the death of the militants would be a serious set-back for them.
"If the reports are confirmed, it marks a very serious blow against transnational terrorism," Basset said.
Fifteen of those slain were JI operatives Zulkipli Bin Hir (alias Marwan ) and Singaporean Muhammad Ali bin Abd Al-Rahman (alias Muawiya), and ASG senior leader Gumbahali Jumdail (alias Dr. Abu), the military said Thursday.
Marwan was identified as a Malaysian bomb-making expert, and Mauiyah as a former member of the Singaporean military with the rank of major. The United States had put up a $50,000 reward for his capture.
But Singapore's Ministry of Defense said Al-Rahman was not a former major nor had he been a regular member of the armed forces, Reuters noted in its report.
One of the fatalities, a certain Jumong — said to be a Malaysian Jemaah Islamiyah operative — is among six JI operatives who entered the Philippines last Dec. 30, Burgos said during Friday’s briefing.
The seven other fatalities, Burgos also said were Abu Sayyaf members Moammar Jumdail (alias Ting and son of Dr. Abu), Tati Jamhali, a certain alias Leong, alias Teng, alias Muin, Tuan Nash LIpae, and one Julpe.
Four others remain unidentified, their group affiliations unknown, Burgos noted.
The JI and ASG operatives were identified based on intelligence supplied by informants. “Its an A1. We cannot divulge all the other information because its operational... We know the locations," the military spokesperson said.
"On the part of Marwan, the mother of Marwan is already getting in touch with the Malaysian authorities… with our AFP authorities, regarding the retrieval of the body of Marwan,” he said of the Malaysian bomb expert.
Prepared for retaliation
According to Reuters, the Philippine military stepped up security on Friday in expectation of revenge attacks by Muslim rebels.
JI is a Southeast Asian group behind the 2005 bombing on the Indonesian island of Bali that killed 202 people, many of them foreign tourists.
The air strike on Sulu island was planned after the military got reports that 30 militants, including some JI members, had arrived there in December.
"We have already prepared for any probable retaliation," Major General Noel Coballes, head of the Army's Western Mindanao command, told reporters.
"We have alerted our units," he said. "They have just raised their security level, they intensified a little the measures they normally have in place."
Remote, Muslim parts of the southern Philippines have become a haven for militants from around the region who have found shelter with Philippine Muslim rebels who have been battling the government of the Christian-majority country for decades.
Southern Philippines is a focus of the US-led international campaign against militancy, launched after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in the United States and several hundred US soldiers are in the region helping train Philippine forces.
Philippine officials also denied media reports that US forces had used a P-3 Orion surveillance aircraft to help plan the air strike.
With Reuters/VS, GMA News
GMA News Online
February 3, 2012 8:57pm


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