Army kills three top terror suspects
Twelve other suspected terrorists dead in air strikes
Three wanted terrorist leaders and 12 followers were killed in a military air strike in Parang town in Sulu at dawn today, the military said. Major General Noel Coballes, commander of the military’s Western Mindanao Command, said troops on the ground confirmed the death of the 15 terrorists, although he said their bodies have not been retrieved. Killed were Abu Sayyaf leader Gumbahali Jumdail, alias Dr Abu, and Jemaah Islamiyya leaders Zulkipli Abdul Hir, alias Marwan and Ibrahim, and Mumamda Ali, alias Muawiya, a Singaporean national. The identities of the 12 others were not immediately known. Maj Gen Jose Tony Villarete, commander of the 3rd Air Division, said two OV-10 bomber planes were dispatched from Zamboanga City around 3am and dropped a total of four bombs, weighing 500 pounds each, on the terrorist lair. The presidential palace lauded the Armed Forces for eliminating three of the most wanted terrorist leaders in the country. “We commend the AFP with this victory in the continuing fight against terrorism," deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said in a statement. “They [pilots] hit the target given by Wesmincom. This is a joint operation with Wesmincom. They dropped the bomb at the target given… Our three targets were hit,” said Maj Gen Villarete, referring to the three terrorist personalities. Coballes said the air strike targeted a temporary camp of the terrorists at the village of Duyan Kabau. “It’s a deliberate, fully-planned attack from our forces. The [terrorists] were temporarily camped in that area,” he said. The official said at least 15 other terrorists fled after the air strike but returned after to retrieve their dead. Coballes hinted that remnants of the group fled to a camp of the Moro National Liberation Front, which signed a peace accord with the government in 1996. “Our SOCO [Scene Of the Crime Operatives] cannot go near the area because it’s an MNLF [Moro Islamic Liberation Front] area, though reports indicated that the three [targets] were hit, and were among those killed,” said Coballes. Asked why they would not enter the MNLF area, the Wesmincom chief said, “We don’t want to have a conflict with them.” He stressed that the operations were aimed at the Abu Sayyaf and the JI personalities. Coballes said the operation was mounted based on the reported Abu Sayyaf and JI presence in the area. “We want to assure the people of Sulu that our operation is aimed at known members of the terrorist groups – ASG and JI – who are now expanding their presence in Mindanao,” said Coballes.