BASILAN ISLAND, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / 2 Aug) – Army forces on Monday pursued Abu Sayyaf militants blamed for the wounding of two soldiers in a clash in the southern Filipino island of Basilan, a military spokesman said.
“Scout Rangers and Special Forces are pursuing the terrorists in Basilan. The order is to get the Abu Sayyaf rain or shine and we will get them,” Army Major Eugene Batara said told the Mindanao Examiner.
He said two soldiers were wounded in fighting late Sunday in Basilan’s Ungkaya Pukan town. There were no reports of Abu Sayyaf casualties, he said.
Fifteen soldiers were killed also in the same town on Aug. 18 after Abu Sayyaf militants, whose group is tied to al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiya, ambushed them.
The fighting in Basilan began July 10 after the Abu Sayyaf and the larger Moro Islamic Liberation Front where implicated in an ambush that left 14 Marines dead in Al-Barka town.
The soldiers strayed into an MILF territory in search for Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, who is wanted both by the Philippines and United States for kidnapping four American citizens, two of them were later killed.
Security officials previously said that troops were searching for a kidnapped Italian Catholic priest Giancarlo Bossi who was not in Basilan, but in Lanao del Norte province.
The Abu Sayyaf is on the U.S. terrorist lists and Washington offered up to $5 million dollars bounty for the capture of Hapilon and other known terror leaders.
Philippine authorities also put up a P100 million rewards for capture dead of alive of Abu Sayyaf leaders.
A bomb blast last week in Zamboanga City left at least 14 people wounded and that attack was also blamed to the Abu Sayyaf group.
Aside from the Abu Sayyaf, Filipino troops, backed by U.S. intelligence, are also tracking down several Jemaah Islamiya bombers, including Indonesians Dulmatin and Umar Patek and Malaysian Zulkifli bin Hir hiding in southern Philippines.
President Gloria Arroyo ordered the military to destroy the Abu Sayyaf and their allies. Moro rebels were said to be aiding the Abu Sayyaf, the military said. (Mindanao Examiner)