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Southeast Asia
Three top terror leaders killed in the Philippines
At least 15 Islamic terrorists extremists, including three top leaders, were killed in an air raid in Sulu at dawn Thursday. Abu Sayyaf commander Umbra Jumdail, also known as Abu Pula, and Jemaah Islamiyah leaders Zulkifli bin Hir or Marwan, and Abdullah Ali, who uses the guerrilla name Muawiyah Anjala, were the senior leaders killed in the air strikes.

Zulkifli is a Malaysian leader of Jemaah Islamiyah, an explosive expert, and the over-all leader of the JI in the Philippines, said military spokesman Colonel Arnulfo Burgos. The US government has offered $5 million and P7.4 million reward for Zulkifli's capture.

Muawiyah, who goes by many aliases, is a Singaporean member of JI who fled to the Philippines shortly after the Bali bombings, according to a Philippine military intelligence source. He was a former member of the Singaporean military with the rank of Major. He was also a JI member affiliated with the Abu Sayyaf and had contact with Omar Patek, Burgos said. The US offered a $50,000 reward for his arrest.

Jumdail, a member of the Tausug ethnic group, is a founder and one of the top figures of the Abu Sayyaf group. He had warrants of arrest for 21 counts of kidnapping and serious illegal detention and was involved in the 2000 kidnapping in Sipadan, Malaysia and the 2001 kidnapping in Dos Palmas resort in Palawan.

In a press briefing, Burgos said that the composite unit with elite troops from the Philippine Army, Philippine Navy and the Philippine Air Force first launched an air strike in Barangay Duyan Kabau, Parang town in Sulu to "soften the target" at around 3 a.m. Thursday. That attack lasted for only a few seconds before troops stormed the terror group's temporary camp, Burgos said.

The air strikes were conducted following tips from civilians that there were Abu Sayyaf and JI members in the area. Burgos said there were also reports that 30 terrorists, including six foreign JI members, arrived in Sulu last December.

Burgos said that no civilians were hurt in the operations, saying that this was a "thorough and deliberate" operation done after "months of intelligence gathering." Burgos added, "We want to assure the people of Sulu that the operation conducted was aimed against known members of the terrorist groups--Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiyah-- who intends to expand their presence in Mindanao."

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Deaths 'a terrific blow' to terrorism in the Philippines

Southeast Asia
Philippines: Army claims major victory
[Straits Times] THE Philippine military said on Monday its killing of a 'ruthless' Abu Sayyaf commander had inflicted a major blow on the Al-Qaeda-linked group, as it pursued his fellow militants on a remote island.

The military reported it shot dead six members of the Muslim militant network in the jungles of lawless Jolo island on Sunday, with high-profile leader Albader Parad among the victims.

'It is a big blow in the sense that he (Parad) is a very notorious and ruthless leader,' Lieutenant General Benjamin Dolorfino, head of military forces in the south, told AFP by telephone. 'He always played a big role as far as the effectiveness and capability of the group is concerned.'

Parad, who was believed to be in his late 20s, made world headlines last year when he led an Abu Sayyaf cell that kidnapped and threatened to behead three Red Cross workers on Jolo. The trio - a Filipino, a Swiss and an Italian - were released after many months.

Lt Gen Dolorfino said Sunday's killings, which occurred after the military acted on tips from informants, gave hope the Abu Sayyaf could finally be crushed. 'Without the leaders, the members will be directionless and, if no new leader emerges, they may crumble,' he said.

Lt Gen Dolorfino said the Abu Sayyaf was now believed to have only 330 fighters on Jolo, with another 61 on nearby Basilan island. This is down from a peak of about 1,200 fighters in 2002. He said the military was pursuing Abu Sayyaf members in the jungles of Jolo on Monday in a bid to capitalise on the previous day's success, with Umbra Jumdail, one of the group's top two leaders, on its radar.

Southeast Asia
Bounty hunters join search for Abu Sayyaf terrorists
Bounty hunters have joined armed civilians in tracking down Abu Sayyaf terrorists who holding three kidnapped Red Cross workers in Sulu province in the southern Philippines, a security official said Monday. Officials said hundreds of civilians have armed themselves and have joined police and military in sealing off a huge area in the hinterlands of Indanan town where the Abu Sayyaf is keeping Swiss national Andreas Notter, Italian Eugenio Vagni and Filipino Mary Jean Lacaba.

The trio was kidnapped January 15 after inspecting water and sanitation projects at a prison in the town of Patikul. Many of the armed civilians are attracted with the huge bounties on the heads of Abu Sayyaf leaders Albader Parad and Abu Pula whose real name is Umbra Jumdail, and their followers, according to the official, who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to speak to reporters.

The United States has offered as much as US $5 million for known Abu Sayyaf leaders under the Rewards for Justice System. Manila also set aside P100 million rewards for the capture of Abu Sayyaf terrorists and their leaders – dead or alive. Many residents in Sulu were unaware of the huge bounties being offered by Washington and Manila on known Abu Sayyaf commanders, despite the killings of several of its top leaders the past years.

Sixteen of Sulu’s 19 mayors also signed a manifesto with Governor Sakur Tan giving their support to resolve the kidnapping crisis and at the same time condemning the Abu Sayyaf atrocities. Muslim religious and business groups also condemned the kidnapping of the three aid workers and other abductions in Basilan and Zamboanga City. Called the Sabiel Al-Muhtadeen Foundation, the group said “these are acts against humanity and against the teachings of Islam because Islam teaches peace, harmony and sobriety for all human beings at all time.”

Southeast Asia
Top Abu Sayyaf leader winged, top deputy waxed
Abu Sayyaf leader Umbra Jumdail alias Dr. Abu Pula was trying to retrieve the remains of his right-hand man Edimar Salip in the middle of a gunbattle with soldiers from the 33rd Infantry Battalion in barangay Tambaking, Maimbung, Jolo when wounded. “Dr. Abu Pula fell on several occasions but managed to escape minus his right-hand man,” Col. Antonio Mark Supnet, commander of the 104th Army Brigade, said. Later found in Salip’s possession was a Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) identification card.

The US government is offering a P5-million reward to anyone who can provide information that will lead to the arrest or death of Jumdail. [He is] a paramedic expert and one of two senior Abu Sayyaf leaders. The other is Radulan Sahiron. Jumdail’s son Masdal was killed in the Thursday encounter which left 25 soldiers and 32 Moro rebels killed and several others wounded. Masdal was an aide of Abu Sayyaf commander Albader Parad.

Terror Networks
Albader Parad Whacked
The military is confirming reports that Abu Sayyaf leader Albader Parad had died from wounds suffered during a series of encounters with troops in Indanan, Sulu since Saturday. Troops earlier killed Abu Sayyaf chieftain Khadaffy Janjalani and terrorist commander Jainal Antel Sali Jr., alias Abu Solaiman.

Lt. Gen. Eugenio Cedo, Armed Forces Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) chief, said troops are tracking down the remaining leaders of the Abu Sayyaf, among them Radulan Sahiron, Umbra Jumdail alias Dr. Abu Pula, Jul Asbi and Isnilon Hapilon, along with Jemaah Islamiyah bombers Dulmatin and Umar Patek.

"The operations continue to comply and meet the deadline to finish the Abu Sayyaf and the JI bombers who are still hiding in Sulu," he said. Cedo spoke to reporters during a visit to a military hospital where he awarded medals to Army Scout Rangers who were wounded in the encounter last Sunday.

At least eight of the 13 wounded Scout Rangers airlifted to Camp Navarro General Hospital were also given cash incentives by Cedo from Armed Forces chief Gen. Hermogenes Esperon. Cedo also belied reports that six soldiers were killed and two others were reported missing in action in fighting against the Abu Sayyaf and fighters of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in Indanan, Sulu on Sunday. It was improbable for the military to hide casualty figures because their immediate families are being notified, he added.

Southeast Asia
Abu Sayyaf fleeing arrival of US troops in Sulu
Abu Sayyaf terrorists are reportedly running scared and have gone into hiding in anticipation of the arrival of US Special Forces troops in Sulu.

"The arrival of the US forces sent some psychological impact on the Abu Sayyaf and probably scared them away," said Maj. Gamal Hayudini, Armed Forces Southern Command information chief.

The arrival of US troops is part of the "Balikatan 2006" military exercises in Sulu, which are expected to start on the last week of this month or first week of February.

It will replicate the Balikatan in Basilan in 2002 where the Abu Sayyaf leadership was flushed out by Filipino troops backed by US technical assistance and advice.

However, the Balikatan in Sulu will focus on the development aspect to wage war against poverty.

Hayudini said since the military exercises were announced, government forces have not encountered any Abu Sayyaf band in the province.

The relentless military offensive has forced the Abu Sayyaf leadership to flee their jungle strongholds, he added.

However, Hayudini said the Abu Sayyaf might have broken up into small factions to escape the massive military manhunt.

"Perhaps they are just observing and in a wait-and-see position," he said.

The military cannot really say what the Abu Sayyaf commanders have on their minds "because these are terrorists," Hayudini said.

On the other hand, Brig. Gen. Alexander Aleo, anti-terror unit Task Force Comet chief based in Sulu, said the Abu Sayyaf might have been scared of the US Special Forces troops.

The Abu Sayyaf had split into small groups and are very mobile, unlike before when they were holding out in jungle camps, he added.

Aleo said the military is also ready to face any impending threat of the Abu Sayyaf against US troops participating in the Balikatan in Sulu.

Security measures have been set up to protect Filipino and American soldiers who will conduct humanitarian missions as what was done in Basilan in 2002, he added.

Aleo, Army commander in Basilan when the Balikatan 02-1 was staged in 2002, said while the military exercise was being held the offensive against the Abu Sayyaf was ongoing.

Armed Forces chief Gen. Generoso Senga has a standing order to "neutralize" the Abu Sayyaf leadership, he added.

Earlier, US Col. James Linder, Joint Special Operation Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P) chief, assured the military that the Balikatan in Sulu will be more of a humanitarian mission involving rehabilitation of schools, building of water wells, road rehabilitation, and the bringing of health facilities and medical mission to depressed and poor areas.

Marines and Army troops have been running after the remaining three top leaders of the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu.

They are Radulan Sahiron, Umbra Jumdail alias Dr. Abu Pula, and the youngest leader Albader Parad, who were dislodged from their camps in Karawan complex in Indanan and Patikul towns in Sulu.

There are reports that Abu Sayyaf chieftain Khaddafi Janjalani and two of their leaders Isnilon Hapilon and Jainal Antel Sali alias Abu Solaiman have sneaked into Sulu after slipping out of Central Mindanao.

However, the military is verifying information that the elusive Janjalani has been moving around in Basilan and Sulu to escape pursuing troops.

Southeast Asia
Sulu fighting resumes as MNLF fighters arrive to reinforce Abu Sayyaf
Fierce fighting between Abu Sayyaf militants and security forces erupted in the island of Jolo, about 950 kilometers south of Manila, leaving one soldier dead and two others seriously wounded, officials said on Thursday.

Officials said troops clashed with some 150 militants, backed by Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) forces, in Mt. Tumatangis in Indanan town Wednesday.

On Tuesday, a soldier was also killed by Abu Sayyaf gunmen in fighting near the town of Indanan. "Sporadic clashes continue on the island and troops are pursuing Abu Sayyaf terrorists," regional military spokesman Air Force Major Gamal Hayudini said in Jolo.

The military did not say if there were enemy casualties, but previous reports suggested dozens of gunmen were killed in two weeks of fighting in Indanan and Panamao towns.

It said at least six soldiers had been gunned down and more than two dozens were wounded. Officials said the Abu Sayyaf and MNLF forces were attacking troops the past three days and that the number of gunmen has swelled to 700 from about 100 the last week.

They said MNLF leaders Khaid Ajibun and Haber Malik were aiding the Abu Sayyaf, and that latest military intelligence reports said another MNLF leader in Basilan island, Bashiri Jailani, had reinforced rebel forces in Jolo.

Malik has denied the allegations and said troops attacked their positions, in the guise of pursuing the Abu Sayyaf group, and that rebels were only defending themselves.

Officials said the target of the military offensives were the Abu Sayyaf leaders in Sulu, Albader Parad, and Umbra Jumdail Gumbahali and Radulan Sahiron, who are all included in the terror lists of both Manila and Washington.

The military said it would also attack armed groups that are supporting the Abu Sayyaf. Hostilities erupted after the Abu Sayyaf attacked a military post last November 11 in Indanan and the fighting spread to neighboring towns.

In February, at least 25 soldiers and some 120 MNLF and Abu Sayyaf militants had been killed in weeks of fierce clashes following a rebel attack on a military post in Jolo.

Most of the attackers were loyal supporters of jailed MNLF leader Nur Misuari. Misuari formerly headed the MNLF that accepted limited autonomy and signed a peace deal with the government in 1996. But violence flared again in November 2001 after some 200 former rebels, backed by the Abu Sayyaf, attacked a major army base in Jolo.

Misuari later escaped to Malaysia where he was arrested and deported back to the Philippines, where he was imprisoned on charges of rebellion, which carry a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. But thousands of his followers and supporters still maintain strongholds in Jolo.

Many Abu Sayyaf militants were former members of the MNLF. And the military said they are still loyal to Misuari and in many instances fought alongside with forces identified with the ex-rebel leader.

Social workers said the latest hostilities forced more than 2,500 people to flee their homes in Jolo for fear they would be caught in the crossfire or held hostage by gunmen.

Southeast Asia
Filippino soldier killed in Sulu by Abu Sayyaf
A SOLDIER was killed in a clash with members of the al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf group in Sulu province, about 950 kilometers south of Manila, officials said.

Officials said the soldiers were tracking down the Abu Sayyaf when they ran into a group of militants, and a firefight ensued in the remote village of Kagay, in Indanan town.

"One soldier was killed and a still undetermined number of gunmen are dead in the fighting," said Maj. Gamal Hayudini, the Southern Command information chief.

He said the Abu Sayyaf gunmen were under Albader Parad and Umbra Jumdail Gumbahali, who are both included in Manila and Washington's terror lists.

In Zamboanga City, Lt. Gen. Edilberto Adan, head of the Southern Command, said the operation against the Abu Sayyaf is relentless.

"Our troops have intensified the hunt for Parad and Gumbahali and other known terror leaders, who are implicated in the series of bombings and kidnappings in the island," he said.

On Monday, two soldiers were wounded in an Abu Sayyaf ambush in the village of Dayuan in Maimbung town, south of the island.

Security forces were battling the Abu Sayyaf in Indanan and Panamao towns,
but officials said Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) rebels were aiding the militants.

About 200 Abu Sayyaf gunmen have splintered into smaller groups and are now scattered in Jolo's mountain areas, where MNLF rebels are known to operate.

Hostilities erupted after the Abu Sayyaf attacked a military post November 11 in Indanan and the fighting spread to many villages.

The military said five soldiers and dozens of Abu Sayyaf gunmen were killed in the fighting since last week. And that more than 2 dozen soldiers were wounded in the clashes.

The fighting forced more than 2,500 people to flee their homes in Jolo for fear that they would be caught in the crossfire or held hostage by gunmen.

Southeast Asia
Abu Sayyaf ambushes Filippino troops
AT LEAST 2 government soldiers were wounded in an ambush Monday by the Abu Sayyaf group in Sulu province in the southern Philippines, officials said.

Officials said the soldiers were on a motorcycle and on their way to the market when gunmen attacked them around 10 a.m. in the village of Dayuan in the town of Maimbung, Sulu.

The wounded soldiers managed to fire back at the attackers, who retreated to the hinterlands, said Major Gamal Hayudini, the Southern Command information chief.

"Troops are now tracking the ambushers, believed to be the group of Sayyaf leader Albader Parad," he said.

The motive of the attack was still unknown, but security forces were battling Abu Sayyaf militants in the towns of Indanan and Panamao on the other side of the island.

Although there have been no reports of major clashes the past three days, troops continue to hunt down about 200 Abu Sayyaf gunmen now scattered in Jolo's mountain areas, where Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) rebels are known to operate.

Fierce fighting between security forces and Abu Sayyaf militants have subsided in many parts of the two towns, Hayudini said.

"There is a relative peace now, but the operation still continues against the Abu Sayyaf and other armed groups that are supporting the terrorists," he said.

The fighting was triggered by an Abu Sayyaf attack on a military post on November 11 in Indanan and the hostilities spread to many villages.

Jolo military chief Brigadier General Alexander Aleo accused the MNLF rebels of coddling Abu Sayyaf members and in many instances fighting alongside with them.

He said MNLF leaders Khaid Ajibun and Haber Malik were aiding the Abu Sayyaf group. But Malik denied the accusation and said troops were attacking their positions in Jolo island.

Aleo said 4 soldiers and dozens of Abu Sayyaf gunmen were killed in the fighting since last week and at least 22 soldiers were also wounded in the clashes.

The military blamed the Abu Sayyaf for the series of bombings and killings in the southern region.

Aleo said security forces were pursuing Abu Sayyaf leaders Albader Parad, Umbra Jumdail Gumbahali and Radulan Sahiron, all included in Washington's and Manila's terror lists.

A military report said Gumbahali was shot on the leg in previous clashes with troops.

Social workers and volunteers continue to help thousands of people displaced by the hostilities.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) in Zamboanga City sent relief aid to Jolo, about 950 kilometers south of Manila, to help feed the refugees now sheltered in abandoned school and government buildings.

Southeast Asia
Philippine Extremists Renew Attacks in Troubled Jolo Island
Extremist guerrillas yesterday attacked civilian targets in Jolo, sparking fresh clashes that ended with troops capturing another rebel encampment, officials said. Field reports from the police and military said the Abu Sayyaf militants, backed by Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) rebels, fired a barrage of mortar bombs on the village of Siit in Panamao town, but there were no reports of casualties. It was the second time this week that gunmen attacked the village, where troops maintain several command posts.

Security forces also captured yesterday a major Abu Sayyaf base in Mt. Purot in Indanan town and destroyed many bunkers and fox holes. Soldiers also recovered spent shells for mortars and ammunition for automatic rifles, said the reports reaching the military’s Southern Command here in Zamboanga City. It was the 3rd camp soldiers have overrun since fighting broke out on Friday in Jolo. Two other bases were captured in Buanza village and in Mt. Kapok, all in Indanan town, a known stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf on the island. “Abu Sayyaf supporters fired a series of mortar rounds in the village of Siit and its good that no civilians were killed or injured,” Southern Command spokesman Col. Domingo Tutaan said by phone from Jolo.

Tutaan was with Southern Command chief Lt. Gen. Edilberto Adan, who flew to Jolo to inspect troops. He also spoke with senior commanders about the progress of the operation. He ordered an intensified campaign against the Abu Sayyaf and their supporters. Four soldiers were killed and 22 others wounded since last week and dozens of Abu Sayyaf and MNLF rebels were also slain in the clashes. Heavy rains the past 2 days have slowed down the military assault in Jolo. The island’s military commander, Brig. Gen. Alexander Aleo, accused the MNLF of aiding the Abu Sayyaf and in many instances fought alongside with them. “The operation is going on and fighting has resumed,” he said.

Aleo said his group is pursuing Abu Sayyaf leaders in Jolo island, Albader Parad and Radulan Sahiron, and Umbra Jumdail Gumbahali, who are all included in the terror lists of Washington and Manila. Social Welfare acting chief Lualhati Pablo said Tuesday that some 900 people have fled their homes in Buanza village and are now sheltered in safer areas in Indanan. Other reports said as many as 2,500 civilians were displaced by the strife.

Southeast Asia
2 Abu Sayyaf camps now under Filippino control
Government troops have captured two camps belonging to the Abu Sayyaf bandit group, but bad weather has slowed down the offensive against the fleeing gunmen that has cost the lives of at least four soldiers, the military said yesterday.

Troops pursuing the Abu Sayyaf and followers of jailed Moro leader Nur Misuari reported they recovered ammunition for rockets, mortars and grenade launchers from two camps in Indanan town on Jolo island late Monday.

One of the camps belonged to Misuari loyalists in Marang village and the other was a “forward base” of the Abu Sayyaf in Bud Kapuk, both in Indanan town.

The military yesterday released a revised casualty figure, reporting that four Marines had been killed and 12 other Marines and 10 Army soldiers had been wounded since a gun battle erupted late Friday followed by sporadic clashes in Marang village between government troops and a combined force of the Abu Sayyaf and the so-called Misuari Breakaway Group (MBG).

It had initially reported that seven soldiers were slain.

There were no encounters reported yesterday.

At least 17 Moro gunmen, including Abu Sayyaf leader commander Mammah, were killed, the military said basing its figures on radio intercepts and ground reports.

But Southern Command spokesperson Colonel Domingo Tutaan said no bodies were found at the Abu Sayyaf camp, only bloodstained backpacks and personal belongings.

He said soldiers later destroyed several bunkers and trenches in the encampment.

Brigadier General Alexander Aleo, commander of the anti-terror Task Force Comet in Jolo, said heavy rains were affecting the offensive.

Aleo said the Abu Sayyaf gunmen were allegedly aided by followers of Misuari, who signed a peace accord with the government in 1996.

Armed Forces spokesperson Colonel Tristan Kison told reporters in Manila that the dense jungle of Jolo, where visibility is often limited to 10 meters, was also hampering the operation.

Lieutenant Colonel Pablo Lorenzo said the heavily fortified base in Bud Kapuk belonged to the group led by Umbra Jumdail, alias Doc Abu.

Lorenzo said the encampment had 15 bunkers, which could accommodate from 80 to 100 persons.

Col. Juancho Sabban, 3rd Marine Brigade commander, said the MBG camp belonged to the group of Khaid Adjibun, Misuari’s chief of staff in Sulu province, and could hold up to 500 people.

In Cotabato City, MNLF chair Hatimil Hassan urged the military to halt the offensive, saying the fighting has already displaced at least 200 civilians.

A man and his wife were wounded by shrapnel, the only civilian casualties reported so far.

Hassan said he had sent emissaries to Sulu to convince Ustadz Habier Malik’s group to stop the fighting.

Lt. Col. Mark Zimmer, public affairs officer of the Joint Special Operation Task Force Philippines (JSOTFP), said US soldiers conducting humanitarian work in the province would not be pulling out even as tensions mounted in Sulu.

Aleo said no US personnel were involved in the Indanan operation. At least 30 US servicemen have been in Sulu since last month.

Southeast Asia
Army division sent after Janjalani
The military has unleashed a whole Army division in Central Mindanao with one mission in mind: wipe out Abu Sayyaf chieftain Khadaffy Janjalani and his followers.

Armed Forces Southern Command (Southcom) chief Lt. Gen. Alberto Braganza, just six days away from retirement, has not softened his stance on neutralizing the local terrorists in order to stop bombings in the war-torn region, according to Col. Domingo Tutaan Jr., chief of the Southcom’s unified staff.

"The Southcom has dedicated a whole (Army) division to wipe out the Abu Sayyaf terrorists now hiding in Central Mindanao with suspected JI (Jemaah Islamiyah( cohorts," Tutaan told reporters.

But amid beefed-up efforts against the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf and their cohorts from the JI in the region, three Army soldiers were killed in an ambush yesterday in Sulu by suspected Abu Sayyaf men.

The attack, which occurred at the Karawan complex in Indanan, Sulu at around 6:30 a.m., was led by Abu Sayyaf leader Umbra Jumdail, according to anti-terror task force chief Brig. Gen. Alexander Aleo.

"The three soldiers were killed on the spot. Pursuit operations are ongoing and we will not stop until we get these terrorists," Aleo said.

Jumdail is one of the key leaders of the group wanted by the US and Philippine governments for a string of bombings and kidnappings in recent years. The Abu Sayyaf is on the US State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations.

The victims were identified as Lt. Sahiron Gumampang, Pfcs. Hasan Darib and Arnold Baldorado — all members of the Army’s 53rd Infantry Battalion.

Army spokesman Maj. Bartolome Vincent Bacarro said the soldiers were unarmed and were in civilian clothes as they were about to attend the 7 a.m. Muslim mass in Indanan.

The military had been belittling the Abu Sayyaf, calling it a spent force due to the number of arrests made against its leaders and members recently.

Military forces claimed to have so far eliminated 14 Abu Sayyaf members since the 6th Army Division under Maj. Gen. Agustin Dema-ala launched an offensive against them on July 1 after the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front collaborated in ejecting the terrorists from Mindanao.

According to Braganza, the battalions of Army men based in several towns in Maguindanao province under the 6th Division have been trapping more of the elusive terrorists.

Braganza also appealed to the public to stay alert as the Abu Sayyaf may attempt to carry out diversionary attacks.

"These threats are real and we are calling on the people to keep their vigilance," Braganza said.

Meanwhile, two suspected members of the communist New People’s Army were arrested Saturday night in Barangay Beguin in Bulan, Sorsogon shortly after an encounter with government forces.

Reports reaching Camp Aguinaldo showed the arrested suspects were identified as Noli Gegantoca, alias Lino, and Julie Gulimlim, alias Maan. Their five companions managed to escape.

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