INTERNATIONAL

U.S. offers $25 m. for rebel leaders' capture

SINGAPORE May 29. Frustrated by its so far futile efforts to capture top functionaries of the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group operating in the southern Philippines, the United States today offered a reward of $5 million for the capture of each of the outfit's five top commanders, totalling $25 million.

While U.S. troops are engaged in joint exercises with Philippine soldiers in the southern part of the country, they haven't had much success in crushing the Abu Sayyaf. An American couple has been in the custody of the Abu Sayyaf for over a year now. Addressing a press conference in Manila, the U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines, Francis Ricciardone, said: "We believe that ordinary citizens of the Philippines or elsewhere may have information that can bring the Abu Sayyaf terrorists to justice."

The five commanders for whom rewards have been offered include the Abu Sayyaf chief, Khadafi Janjalani and its commanders Jainal Antel Sali, Isnilon Totoni Hapilon, Hamsiraji Marusi Sali and Aldam Tilao also known as Abu Sabaya. Though the U.S. and the Philippine Government have repeatedly said that U.S. troops are simply on a training exercise, their presence has upped the ante in the battle against the Abu Sayyaf. However, the offer of the reward in itself indicates that a tough battle lies ahead of those interested in nabbing and bringing the top leadership of the Abu Sayyaf to justice. The Philippine President, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, has vowed to smash the Abu Sayyaf but has had little success so far.

Outside of Afghanistan, the Philippines is being seen as a major focal point for the U.S. war against terrorism.

Washington has received unprecedented co-operation from the Arroyo Government in this regard.

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