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Philippine Military Kills Abu Sayyaf Leader

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 21, 2002 – The Philippine military is reporting today it killed a major leader of the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group and two henchmen today in a pre-dawn attack at sea.

Philippine officials said the dead include Abu Sabaya, spokesman and most publicly prominent leader of the Muslim- separatist group. They said Sabaya was trying to jump ship when he was shot and fell overboard. His body has not been recovered.

Four other Abu Sayyaf members were captured, the officials said, and government forces suffered no casualties.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, speaking at the Foreign Press Center here this morning, said the United States commends the Philippine government "for its continued battle against terrorist problems."

Philippine officials said naval special warfare personnel intercepted a 25-foot outrigger at 4:30 a.m. off the coast of Zamboanga del Norte province. The boat, with seven Abu Sayyaf terrorists aboard, had launched from the village on Sibuco and was believed to be heading to Basilan Island.

A firefight broke out when the Philippine sailors stopped the motorized outrigger. The boat sank. The four surviving terrorists were captured immediately.

The United States provided limited help to the Philippine navy special warfare sailors who performed the mission. "We supported this operation through assistance in planning, information-sharing and communications support," said Pentagon spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Jeff Davis. "After the Abu Sayyaf were in custody and the area declared safe, two MH- 47 helicopters assisted in the search for bodies or survivors."

The United States may have helped indirectly, Davis said. Navy special warfare techniques and tactics were among the skills U.S. service members taught to members of the Philippine armed forces since the program began in February.

The Abu Sayyaf terrorist group finances its separatist activities in the southern Philippines by kidnapping for ransom, murder and plunder. The group is based on Basilan Island. In May 2001, the group kidnapped American missionaries Gracia and Martin Burnham and Philippine nurse Deborah Yap. Yap and Martin Burnham were killed June 7 as Philippine forces attempted a rescue. Gracia was wounded.

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