BASILAN SOLDIERS KILL ABU SAYYAF AMBUSHER

Basilan soldierZamboanga City, April 17, 2003  -- Security forces gunned down an Abu 
Sayyaf rebel tagged as one of those who ambushed patrolling soldiers 
Wednesday in Basilan island in the southern Philippines, officials said.

Basilan Army chief Col. Bonifacio Ramos said pursuing soldiers clashed with 
the ambushers shortly before 9 a.m. and killed one them in a running 
gunbattle in the hinterlands of Sinangcapan village in Tuburan town. "We 
got one them and troops have recovered weapons left behind by the Abu 
Sayyaf rebels. Pursuit operation is going on," Ramos told reporters.

Ramos did not say how many rebels the soldiers were pursuing. He said 
soldiers recovered the body.

Abu Sayyaf gunmen ambushed early Wednesday a group of Army soldiers 
patrolling Sinangcapan village, killing one and  wounding two others, he 
said. The gunmen opened fire on the soldiers as they passed the village of 
Sinangcapan around 4 a.m.

Ramos tagged the group of Abu Sayyaf subleader Suod Sanajalin as behind the 
attack. "We have reports that Sanajalin was behind the ambush and troops 
are hunting down his group," he said.

A Huey helicopter plucked out the wounded and airlifted them to a military 
hospital in Zamboanga City, he said.

A radio network dxRZ Radyo Agong reported in Basilan that 3 soldiers were 
wounded in the ambush. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, 
but the Abu Sayyaf group and the larger separatist rebel Moro Islamic 
Liberation Front (MILF) are known to operate in Basilan island, about 15 
miles south of Zamboanga City.

It was unknown if the attack was connected to the arrest of a rebel 
subleader Bashir Abdul of the killing of six Abu Sayyaf rebels Monday in 
separate clashes with security forces in Basilan and Jolo islands. Abdul's 
arrest has led soldiers to an Abu Sayyaf arms cache in Basilan.

Government offensives against the Abu Sayyaf and the MILF -- both tied to 
al Qaeda network and Jemaah Islamiya -- in the southern Philippines. The 
two groups are fighting for the establishment of a strict Muslim state in 
the region, but Philippine authorities have linked the Abu Sayyaf and the 
MILF to the spate of terrorism in the South. (Al Jacinto, PHNO Mindanao Bureau)

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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