Saturday, August 15, 2009
Philippine leader calls for 'annihilation' of extremists
ZAMBOANGA, Philippines - President Gloria Arroyo had called for the "annihilation" of Muslim extremists in the southern Philippines after 23 soldiers died in a bloody
She had also warned that members of the Muslim separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), who joined in the slaughter of the soldiers, would be hunted down despite a ceasefire with the rebel group. Arroyo made the remarks in Zamboanga, where she visited wounded soldiers and attended a wake for troopers killed while fighting the Abu Sayyaf Muslim extremists on southern Basilan island on Thursday.
Twenty-three soldiers and 20 Abu Sayyaf members were killed when the military overran a training camp run by the militants on Basilan. MILF fighters have been identified as helping the Abu Sayyaf in the fighting despite having a ceasefire with the government.
The Abu Sayyaf, formed in the early 1990s with support from Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, has been linked to the Philippines' worst terror attacks, including deadly bombings and mass kidnappings.
The larger MILF has been waging an Islamic separatist campaign in the southern Philippines for 30 years but five years ago signed a ceasefire with the government to negotiate for peace. Although the peace talks collapsed in August 2008 after MILF
commanders attacked Christian communities in the south, both sides have recently taken steps to resume the talks.