BODY OF ABU SAYYAF LEADER FOUND  

Zamboanga City, Feb. 23, 2003 -- Philippine soldiers on Saturday recovered the body of a senior Abu Sayyaf leader killed in a firefight in the southern Jolo island, military sources said.

Troops, acting on information passed by Muslim villagers, dug up a shallow grave in the hinterland village of Bandang in Talipao town and found the body of Mujib Susukan who was killed Tuesday after security forces raided a rebel hideout, a senior military official said.

"We are 97% sure that it was the body of Susukan. The military will document everything about the find," the official said.

Security forces stormed Susukan's hideout after Muslim farmers tipped off the military about the presence of guerrillas in Bandang village. At least 10 of Susukan's followers were also killed in the clash and troops have recovered 6 bodies so far from two separate gravesites near Patikul town.

The military tagged Susukan as behind the kidnappings of two Spanish missionaries in Jolo island in 1993, a Taiwanese trader and three Hong ong fishery workers in 1998 on an island off Tawi-Tawi province.

He was also implicated in the abduction of 21 mostly European and Asian holidaymakersfrom Sipadan island resortoff Sabaha, Malaysia in 2000 andthe kidnapping of three Indonesian seamen and four Filipino Christian preachers last year in Jolo island.

Susukan, who had five million pesosreward for his capture, wasranked by the military as third in the Abu Sayyaf organization. He was a former rebel leader of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), which signed a peace deal with Manila in September 1996. (Al Jacinto, PHNO Mindanao Bureau)


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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