Eight Muslim Extremists Slain in Renewed Fighting on Hostage Island
Eight members of the Philippine Muslim extremist Abu Sayyaf group were killed as the military stepped up their assault on the kidnapping group in the southern island of Jolo, military sources said Saturday.
Helicopter gunships blasted Abu Sayyaf positions as soldiers pressed on with their offensive in the towns of Patikul and Talipao, two former strongholds of the outlaw band which went on a kidnapping spree earlier this year and are still holding an American and a Filipino hostage.
Three Abu Sayyaf members were killed in Talipao and five in Patikul on Friday, a military report added.
At least one soldier was also wounded in the fighting, the military report said.
Meanwhile, provincial police chief Candido Casimiro said 25 Abu Sayyaf members surrendered to the government in the Jolo town of Panglima Estino on Saturday.
Casimiro called on the remaining Abu Sayyaf to surrender, warning "there is no let-up in the government offensive and we will not stop until they are dead."
However there was still no information on the location of the two remaining hostages.
Regional military chief Major General Narciso Abaya said the impeachment of President Joseph Estrada over an illegal gambling scandal in Manila had not affected the operation against the Abu Sayyaf.
He added that the start of the Islamic festival of Ramadan next month will not hamper their operations either.
The Abu Sayyaf kidnapping spree began in April as they seized dozens of foreign and local hostages and hid them in the jungles of Jolo island.
Most of the hostages were freed after ransom money was paid.
In September, the government launched a military assault to free the remaining hostages. Three Malaysians, two Frenchmen and 12 Filipino Christian evangelists have been rescued so far -- JOLO (AFP)
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