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Updated: September 21, 2009 12:18 IST

Philippine troops clash with Abu Sayyaf militants

AP
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Philippine Marines carry the flag-draped coffins of soldiers killed in clashes with Abu Sayyaf militants in Basilan province, on August 14 this year, as they are brought to a gymnasium in Zamboanga City in the southern Philippines. File photo: AP.
AP Philippine Marines carry the flag-draped coffins of soldiers killed in clashes with Abu Sayyaf militants in Basilan province, on August 14 this year, as they are brought to a gymnasium in Zamboanga City in the southern Philippines. File photo: AP.

Clashes erupted on Sunday in the southern Philippines when al-Qaida-linked militants resisted attempts by government forces to serve arrest warrants on three of their commanders.

Maj. Ramon David Hontiveros, a regional military spokesman, said the militants fired at troops after they cordoned off part of a village on Jolo island where the three commanders and 220 militants were staying.

A soldier was slightly injured. There were no immediate reports of rebel casualties.

The hostilities broke out as residents of the predominantly Muslim island celebrated the Islamic festival of Eid-ul-Fitr. Troops were trying to serve arrest warrants on commanders Albader Parad, Isnilon Hapilon and Umbra Jumdail, also known as Dr. Abu.

“Sadly, they put up a fight, so the situation escalated,” Maj. Hontiveros said.

Maj. Hontiveros said authorities were still determining whether members of the Indonesian-based militant network Jemaah Islamiyah were with the group encountered by the military.

The Abu Sayyaf is believed to be sheltering Jemaah Islamiyah militants, including Umar Patek and Dulmatin. The two are suspected of helping mastermind the 2002 Bali nightclub bombings that killed 202 people, and then fleeing to the southern Philippines to evade a crackdown in Indonesia.

The Abu Sayyaf, which has about 400 fighters, has been blamed for numerous bombings, beheadings and kidnappings of Filipinos and foreigners. It is believed to have received funds from al-Qaida and is on a U.S. list of terrorist organizations.

Washington has offered rewards for the capture of Abu Sayyaf leaders, including Parad, Hapilon and Jumdail.

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