Militant commander killed in clash with soldiers in Philippines resort

At least nine people, including a notorious rebel commander, have been confirmed killed in a clash between the Philippine military and the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group on the tourist island of Bohol, officials said Wednesday.

Ano said that troops took photographs of the slain Askali, who also went by his nom de guerre Abu Rami.

The military is very positive that Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) sub-leader Muamar Askali alias "Abu Rami" was among the six bandits killed during clash with government security forces in Inabanga, Bohol Tuesday morning.

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

The group has beheaded two Canadian tourists and a German yachtman since a year ago, and ransomed off sailors reportedly for large sums of money.

"Abu Rami" is believed to one of the planners of the Samal Island raid which resulted in the kidnapping of Canadians John Ridsel, Robert Hall, Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstand and Filipina Marites Flor last September 21, 2015.

The AFP chief said they are now conducting pursuit operations against the remaining five members of Akali's group and their "Balik Islam" contact in Sitio Ilaya, Barangay Napo, Inabanga town.

"He and his followers left Sulu for a safer place, but it appears that there's no safe place for the Abu Sayyaf anymore", Sobejana was quoted by the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Bohol island lies about 640 kilometers (397 miles) southeast of Manila and is about an hour by boat from Cebu province, a trade and tourism center that has hosted some of the meetings of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the regional bloc the Philippines is leading this year. Hoteliers and visitors told AFP the incident has not affected tourist traffic on the island as yet, though there was increased police security.

"If successful, the raid could have given them additional hostages, and potentially ransoms", he said.

Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said government forces have thwarted the "evil plans" of the armed group and will continue to take action to keep the country's peace and order.

Over the past year the Abu Sayyaf has been expanding its activities from its main Jolo base in the south where the military has been waging an offensive in recent months.

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.

"They clearly benefit from the woefully inadequate maritime capabilities of the Philippine navy and coast guard ... The amount of territory is very large, and these guys are moving on very small fast craft that blend in".

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  • Joey Payne