Philippine troops clash with Abu Sayyaf militants
Manila: Clashes erupted on Sunday in the southern Philippines when al Qaeda-linked militants resisted attempts by government forces to serve arrest warrants on three of their commanders.
Major 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," Hontiveros said.
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 Qaeda and is on a US list of terrorist organisations.
Washington has offered rewards for the capture of Abu Sayyaf leaders, including Parad, Hapilon and Jumdail.
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