Philippine military officials say troops have killed a top leader of the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group, which is linked to a number of bloody attacks in the country. Douglas Bakshian reports from Manila.
General Hermogenes Esperon, the chief of the Philippine military, said Wednesday that army special forces killed Abu Sulaiman in a gun battle on the southwestern island of Jolo. He died Tuesday.
Sulaiman was one of the leading terrorists wanted by U.S. and Philippine authorities. He claimed responsibility for the 2004 bombing of a ferry off Manila bay that killed more than 100 people, one of Southeast Asia's worst terror attacks.
He also was accused of masterminding the kidnapping of three Americans and a number of Filipino tourists from Palawan island in 2001. One of the Americans was beheaded during his captivity and another was killed in a rescue operation.
Sulaiman also is suspected in a bombing in the southern city of Zamboanga that killed a U.S. soldier in 2002.
Military spokesman Colonel Bartolome Bacarro, says this is a significant victory in the war against terror.
"With the neutralization of Abu Sulaiman, we believe there will be a vacuum in their leadership and we believe this is a major blow against Abu Sayyaf," he said.
The United States has offered a $5 million reward for Sulaiman's capture.
Abu Sayyaf members say they are fighting for an Islamic homeland in the southern Philippines, but the group is best known for kidnappings. It is based on Jolo island, where at least 7,000 Filipino soldiers and some American military advisers are involved in an operation to hunt down Islamic militants.
Abu Sayyaf has links to the regional terrorist group Jemaah Islamiah, which is accused of being behind bombings on the Indonesian island of Bali in 2002 and 2005 that killed more 220 people.