Abu Sayyaf planned kidnappings on Philippines tourist island

An Abu Sayyaf leader involved in the beheadings of foreign hostages - including German hostage Jurgen Kantner - was killed in an encounter on Tuesday in Bohol province in the Philippines, police said on Wednesday (12 April).

Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Eduardo Ano said Abu Rami was "a very notorious Abu Sayyaf leader", who had climbed the ranks of separatist group.

Ano said captured Abu Sayyaf militants identified Askali from a photo troops took of the young militant leader after death, which confirmed that the gunmen who quietly cruised into Bohol on three motorboats Monday night then clashed with troops belonged to the Islamic extremist group.

Military chief of staff Gen. Eduardo Ano said Askali, who uses the nom de guerre Abu Rami, had been linked to "a lot of atrocities" and could have led more ransom kidnappings and other attacks if he had not been killed on central Bohol island Tuesday.

Five other Abu Sayyaf gunmen were killed after what authorities are describing as a successful effort to thwart a kidnapping attempt by the group.

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.

Government forces seized control of two of the houses, and the rest of the gunmen either were in the third house or had fled the area, dela Rosa told reporters.

Though the group has been known to roam from its jungle lairs on kidnapping missions - in 2001 they seized 20 people from a resort in Palawan province - their attempt this week marked their first known attempt in the heart of central Phillipines.

Bohol - an island province - lies near Cebu province, a bustling commercial and tourism hub.

Abu Sayyaf militants have crossed the sea border with Malaysia on powerful speedboats and kidnapped scores of foreign tourists in past years.

"We continue to bring in fresh troops to be able to assist those that are in the area, replace them if necessary, to allow for a more intensified clearing operation", military spokesman Brigadier-General Restituto Padilla said on CNN. Intelligence later indicated the gunmen landed ashore in Inabanga, prompting military and police officials to deploy their forces, he said.

Over the past year the Abu Sayyaf has been expanding its activities from its main base on the remote southern island of Jolo, about 500 kilometres southwest of Bohol.

In its travel advisory, the French Embassy in Manila cited "credible reports of threats of kidnapping by terrorist groups in the Central Visayas, particularly in Cebu and Bohol".

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

The militants are still holding at least 29 captives in Sulu's jungles.

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)

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