Wednesday, April 06, 2005
The Philippine Navy said on Monday commandos killed two suspected Muslim rebels in a battle at sea near the maritime border with Malaysia. A spokesman for the Navy, Captain Geronimo Malabanan, said men on two speedboats exchanged automatic gunfire with commandos from a warship on patrol near Tawi-tawi island. "Our boys tried to stop them but, instead of heeding the warning shots, they returned fire," he said, adding the navy had stepped up patrols in the area since three Indonesian sailors were abducted last week off the Malaysian state of Sabah. "They could be members of Abu Sayyaf." Muslim rebels from Abu Sayyaf, a small homegrown group with links to regional militant group Jemaah Islamiah and al Qaeda, have strongholds in the southwestern Philippines. Bands of pirates are also active in the long string of islands in the area. Malabanan said two gunmen were killed, with two wounded and taken to a government hospital in Bongao, the capital of Tawi-tawi. The other speedboat escaped. Abu Sayyaf was known mainly for kidnappings until it planted a bomb on a ferry in February 2004. The explosion and fire killed 116 people, the worst terror attack in the Philippines. The group also claimed three coordinated blasts in Manila and two southern cities in February that killed 13 people.