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Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 August 2006, 14:18 GMT 15:18 UK
Two dead in Philippines fighting
By Sarah Toms
BBC News, Manila

Troops in the southern Philippines (file photo)
Troops are searching for several key militants
Security forces in the southern Philippines say two commandos have been killed and 17 wounded in fresh clashes with Muslim militants.

Fierce fighting broke out again on the remote island of Jolo as the army tried to flush out rebel leaders.

The military sent a battalion of army rangers to Jolo on Monday to bolster 3,000 troops already hunting some 200 members of the Abu Sayyaf group.

The military says the rebels also suffered a number of casualties.

Bali suspects

Security forces say these fresh clashes first erupted on Tuesday when soldiers ran into a group of rebels.

Troops had begun combing the jungles this week after the militants slipped through a dragnet around the mountains near Indanan town.

Map showing Jolo island

The latest army offensive is targeting Khadaffy Janjalani, the leader of the Abu Sayyaf group.

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

It is blamed for kidnappings and bombings, including an attack on a ferry in 2004 that killed more than 100 people.

The campaign also aims to capture the two main suspects in the 2002 Bali bombings, Dulmatin and Umar Patek, who are believed to be hiding in the Philippines.

The two Indonesians belong to Jemaah Islamiah, or JI, a regional Islamic network with alleged links to al-Qaeda.

Despite numerous campaigns on Jolo, Abu Sayyaf leaders and foreign militants have eluded capture.

This time the military is confident of success because it says the rebels no longer enjoy the support of villagers who have suffered years of conflict.




SEE ALSO
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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