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Last Updated: Wednesday, 2 August 2006, 09:44 GMT 10:44 UK
Fierce fighting in S Philippines
By Sarah Toms
BBC News, Manila

Troops in the southern Philippines (file photo)
Troops are searching for several key militants
The Philippine military says five members of the Muslim group the Abu Sayyaf have been killed in fierce fighting in the south of the country.

Rockets have been fired and bombs dropped on a base of suspected members of the Abu Sayyaf on Jolo island.

The army says five soldiers were wounded and a civilian guide was killed in the clashes, which started on Tuesday.

The casualties cannot be independently confirmed.

Heavy fighting broke out on Jolo after soldiers caught up with militants fleeing the air strikes on their camp.

Map showing Jolo island

The Philippines is trying to stop Abu Sayyaf and members of Jemaah Islamiah, a regional network with alleged links to al-Qaeda, from using Jolo as a base to train militants and plot bomb attacks.

The United States believes two main suspects in the 2002 Bali bombings - Dulmatin and Umar Patek - are also hiding in the south. The Philippine military says it is confident it will flush them and Abu Sayyaf's leader, Khaddafy Janjalani, out of Jolo.

Abu Sayyaf is the smallest of four Muslim rebel groups in the Philippines with around 400 members.

Muslim separatists have been fighting in the south since the 1960s for greater independence from the mainly Catholic government in Manila.

The conflict has killed over 120,000 people and stunted development in the area, which is rich in natural resources.

The government is in peace talks with the largest rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

But it wants to destroy the Abu Sayyaf, which is blamed for the country's most deadly militant attack - the bombing of a ferry in 2004 that killed more than 100 people.

Philippines troops in Jolo clash
01 Aug 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Blast hits southern Philippines
27 Mar 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Battle rages on Philippine island
13 Feb 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Manila sends more troops to Jolo
11 Feb 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Bomb caused Philippine ferry fire
11 Oct 04 |  Asia-Pacific
Guide to the Philippines conflict
10 Feb 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Country profile: The Philippines
03 Jan 06 |  Country profiles

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