Published: Thu, April 13, 2017
Science | By Boyd Webster

Philippine Troops Kill Abu Sayyaf Commander Responsible For Beheading Foreigners

Philippine Troops Kill Abu Sayyaf Commander Responsible For Beheading Foreigners

At least nine people, including a notorious rebel commander, have been confirmed killed in a clash between the Philippine military and the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group on the tourist island of Bohol, officials said Wednesday.

Gen. Eduardo Ano, the military's chief of staff, said troops recovered and identified the remains of Moammar Askali, also known as Abu Rami, at the scene of the battle in a far-flung coastal village on Bohol island.

Ano said Abu Rami was "trying to make a name of his own" and had risen to become one of Abu Sayyaf's top leaders.

"It's a major blow, Abu Rahmi participated in Samal kidnapping and also on the Canadians I can declare that the threat is over successfully after the siege in Barangay Napo, Inabanga, Bohol although we are still pursuing some of the remnants of the groups, our assault them continues to scour the area", Año said.

Abu Sayyaf militants have crossed the sea border with Malaysia on powerful speedboats and kidnapped scores of foreign tourists in past years.

The German, Mr Jurgen Kantner, 70, a sailing enthusiast who survived after being held for almost two months by Somali pirates eight years ago, was beheaded in February, after talks for his release in exchange for a 30-million-peso (S$851,000) ransom collapsed.

Over the past year the Abu Sayyaf has been expanding its activities from its main Jolo base in the south where the military launched an offensive last year.

Philippine military chief General Eduardo Ano said the five remaining fighters had fled after an overnight siege near a remote village. "If they have further plans to kidnap innocent people somewhere, they will now have to think twice".

"They are on the run".

Bohol - an island province - lies near Cebu province, a bustling commercial and tourism hub.

Hoteliers and visitors told AFP the fighting has not affected tourist traffic on the island, though there was increased police security.

Bohol bills itself as a tropical paradise sought after by foreign tourists who go there to swim with docile whale sharks, travel its rivers on boat cruises, and lounge on unspoiled beaches.

"Abu Rami is a young, aggressive and upcoming leader... who has the potential of being the next leader of the Abu Sayyaf".

Zachary Abuza, a Southeast Asian security expert at the National War College in the United States, told AFP the Abu Sayyaf had been regularly staging long-range kidnapping raids, including in Malaysia.

Abuza said it was not the first time the Abu Sayyaf had staged long-range kidnapping raids, having regularly done so in Malaysian Sabah. "The amount of territory is very large, and these guys are moving on very small fast craft that blend in".

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