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Leader of terrorist group killed in Philippine

Leader of terrorist group killed in Philippine

The Philippines military chief of staff Gen. Eduardo Ano told The Associated Press that troops have recovered and identified the remains of Moammar Askali, who used the nom de guerre Abu Rami, in the scene of the battle in a far-flung coastal village on Bohol island.

Five Abu Sayyaf gunmen, along with an unknown number of local collaborators, remain at large after the clashes which took place in a rural district, said military chief of staff General Eduardo Ano.

He said Askali was being groomed as a future Abu Sayyaf chieftain, behind Radullah Sahiron, who carries a US$1 million (S$1.4 million) bounty on his head.

The Philippines military, which has been fighting a ground war against Abu Sayyaf for decades, said the situation in Bohol, popular among tourists, has returned to normal in the wake of the shootout.

Abu Sayyaf militants have crossed the sea border with Malaysia on powerful speedboats and kidnapped scores of foreign tourists in past years, reflecting their growing capability and desperation for money.

The group past year beheaded Canadians John Ridsdel and Robert Hall.




"However, we always call on our citizens to show vigilance and it is very important that they share or report to us any particularly suspicious people in the area", he said.

At least nine people - five militants, three soldiers and one policeman - were killed in the gun battle, which took place in the mountain village of Napo in Inabanga town. Askali was involved in those kidnappings and the captives' gruesome murders, Ano said.

The militants have been spotted before in Palawan province, which lies nearer to Sulu than Bohol.

Ano said military intelligence operatives had been trying to track the movements of Askali's group for several days after learning of their planned abductions. He was directly involved in some of the worst atrocities carried out by the Filipino jihadis, including the beheading of German national Jurgen Kantner and Canadians John Ridsdel and Robert Hall. Hoteliers and visitors told AFP the incident has not affected tourist traffic on the island as yet, though there was increased police security.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered troops to destroy the group in Sulu and in outlying island provinces, and has threatened to declare martial law in the country's south if the threat posed by the Abu Sayyaf and other groups aligned with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) gets out of control.

Its boat-riding gunmen have been boarding commercial and fishing vessels off Jolo, near Malaysia, and abducting dozens of foreign crew members.

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