Wednesday, August 12, 2009

At least 45 killed in major battle in Philippine south

MANILA - A major battle between Philippine troops and Muslim guerrillas on a remote southern island has killed at least 45 people.

At least 22 rebels and 23 soldiers were killed in a military assault on Wednesday on a base of Abu Sayyaf rebels in the interior of the southern island of Basilan.
The Abu Sayyaf, the smallest but the most deadly of several Muslim groups fighting for independence from Manila in the south of the Roman Catholic state, is estimated to have about 350 hard-core followers based mostly on Basilan and the nearby island of Jolo.

It has links with Jemaah Islamiah, a pan-Asian radical Muslim group blamed for attacks in Indonesia, including the 2002 Bali bombings and the bomb attacks on two hotels in Jakarta last month.

Abu Sayyaf is blamed for the worst militant attack in the Philippines, the sinking of a ferry in Manila Bay in 2004 in which 100 people were killed.

It has also been in the spotlight for high-profile kidnappings, most recently of three Red Cross officials on Jolo who were later freed.

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