Military fails to get bodies of slain terror leadersBy Katherine Evangelista
MANILA, Philippines—The military has failed to get the bodies of three senior Islamic extremists killed in a US-backed air strike in a remote village in Sulu, a military official said Friday.
Regional military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Randolph Cabangbang said the soldiers who approached the bombed area in Parang town faced dogged resistance from surviving Abu Sayyaf members.
“There is intermittent fire, the area is not yet secured,” Cabangbang told a national television in a telephone interview.
The military said it had killed Malaysian Zulkifli bin Abdul Hir, alias Marwan, one of the United States’ most-wanted terror suspects and a top official of the regional terror group Jemaah Islamiyah; Singaporean Mohammad Ali, alias Muawiyah, another JI leader wanted in Indonesia for the 2002 bomb attacks in Bali; and Filipino Abu Pula, also known as Doctor Abu or Umbra Jumdail, one of the core leaders of the Abu Sayyaf.
Major General Noel Coballes, commander of the Western Mindanao Command, said the military was bracing for possible retaliatory attacks from the Abu Sayyaf group.
“We are preparing for that although we cannot say that they will do that but we have already prepared for any probable retaliation,” said Coballes.
Coballes said that although a full alert level was not raised he warned all ground troops against possible retaliatory attacks from the Islamic militants.
“We’ve alerted all our troops with regard to that even before the execution of the plan. We have informed our commanders of the probable repercussion or probable retaliation of the other groups,” he said.
The military claimed the killings dealt a major blow to the capabilities of the two terror groups, particularly their ability to strike in the Philippines.
Armed Forces spokesman Colonel Arnufo Burgos said on Thursday that the US military provided intelligence that helped in the success on the bombing raid.
A rotating force of 600 US Special Forces has been stationed in the southern Philippines since 2002 to help train local troops in how to combat Islamic militants.
The US forces are only allowed to advise the Filipino soldiers and are banned from playing a combat role.
The troops had moved into the scene of the strike in an effort to retrieve the bodies of the three senior Islamic extremists who were killed, as well as to take on the others who survived Thursday’s aerial assault.
Coballes maintained that the three senior terrorist leaders were among the casualties during Thursday’s attack.
He said that ground troops scouring the area had recovered body parts. With a report from Agence France-Presse