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4/12/04 - TERRORISM IN THE PHILIPPINES - 2004-04-13

The Philippine government has reported that six Abu Sayyaf group terrorists, including Hamsiraji Sali, a top leader, were killed by Philippine troops on Basilan island in the southern Philippines. The Abu Sayyaf group has links to the Jemaah Islamiyah and al-Qaida terror networks and is responsible for numerous bombings and kidnappings. Its goal is to establish a radical fundamentalist Islamic state in western Mindanao and the Sulu islands of the southern Philippines.

Sali was wanted by the U.S. for the 2001 kidnapping of seventeen Filipinos and three Americans from a tourist resort in Palawan, the Philippines. Two of the Americans and a Filipina nurse were killed.

On March 30th, authorities in the Philippines arrested eight other Abu Sayyaf group members. Some were reportedly found with weapons and bomb-making materials. According to news reports, one of those arrested planted the bomb that sank a ferry in February, killing more than one-hundred people.

General Rodolfo Garcia, the Philippine army vice chief of staff, says, “The Abu Sayyaf have been marginalized, and largely their strength has been reduced”:

“But there is always a danger that is ever-present when a group starts to get marginalized; they would always want to try to come back, come back with a revenge.”

President George W. Bush said that the U.S. stands with the Philippines in the war against terror:

“Both our nations are threatened by terrorism, and we are determined to fight that threat until it is defeated. Our diplomats and law enforcement and intelligence officers are working arm-in-arm to disrupt terror plots, to cut off terrorist financing, and to bring the terrorists to justice.”

Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo says that the Philippines will not surrender to terrorism. Instead, she says, it “has chosen to fight.”