ZAMBOANGA CITY (AFP), August 28, 2003 (STAR) Government troops pounded suspected lairs of Abu Sayyaf militants in the southern province of Sultan Kudarat yesterday, where the groupís leader was believed hiding.

Soldiers were also searching a labyrinth of caves near the town of Palimbang where Abu Sayyaf chief Khaddafi Janjalani may be hiding, the militaryís southern command said.

The troops began shelling rebel targets in the area Tuesday using 105-mm howitzer cannons and rockets. Government airplanes were also dropping bombs in the area to flush out the rebels.

There were no immediate reports of rebel casualties, however.

Troops in the southern Philippine were told to step up offensives against the Abu Sayyaf after two guerrillas captured last week confessed that the group was plotting fresh bombings.

Also Wednesday, troops raided a suspected Abu Sayyaf lair near the town of Patikul on the southern island of Jolo, triggering a brief running gunbattle but producing no casualties on either side.

The Abu Sayyaf is a small group of self-styled Islamic militants tagged a terrorist organization by both the US and Philippine governments.

It has been blamed for a series of bombings in recent years, as well as the abductions of foreigners including two Americans murdered two years ago.

DND urges public to join fight vs terrorism The Philippine Star 08/28/2003

CLARK FIELD, Pampanga Ė Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes called yesterday for an "effective information network" to link Filipinos with government intelligence agencies to counter any terrorist attack.

Speaking to reporters at the graduation of 378 members of the Air Forceís 710th special operations wing here, Reyes said the government has pinpointed the "high impact targets" in the country of Indonesia-based terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah (JI).

"But I donít want to cause any new alarm by specifying the new targets," he said. "When JI terrorists attack, they want to deliver a message so they have high impact targets." Reyes said Filipinos must recognize that terrorism remains a global problem that defies national boundaries.

"The risk will always be there," he said. "We have to be prepared for (possible terrorist assaults) and have maximum vigilance."

Reyes said there is no iron-clad guarantee against terrorist attacks and that what happened in Mumbai, India last Sunday could occur in the Philippines.

"What is important is not only that we have the entire security force on alert, but also the entire citizenry on anti-terrorism mode alert," he said.

Reyes said people should be ready to report unusual situations as the coverage of intelligence is wider and more effective if everybody is part of the information network.

The defense establishment has made adequate coordination to fight any terrorist plot to cause havoc in the country, he added.

Reyes said Hambaliís arrest in Thailand has dealt a "severe blow" to the JIís operations in Southeast Asia but that its terrorist network has remained "quite wide."

Reyes described Hambali as the "the most wanted man in the region" and "operations man" of JI, the counterpart of al-Qaeda in Southeast Asia.

Hambali is an Indonesian Muslim cleric who envisions an "Islamic superstate" in Southeast Asia comprising southern Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia.

Investigators in India are looking into the possible involvement of two Islamic groups in the bombings in Mumbai, which killed 46 people and hurt 150 others near a monument and a Hindu temple in the cityís financial district.

During the dialogue, Air Force commander Lt. Gen. Nestor Santillan announced plans to develop a 175-hectare area in Sacobia north of the Clark special economic zone for mass housing for Air Force soldiers.

It is part of the economic zone administered by the Bases Conversion Development Authority.

Reyes also told Air Force personnel they would be receiving by early next year the 50 percent increase in their basic pay in accordance with a gradual salary increase granted to the military starting last year. ĖDing Cervantes

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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