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Philippines Confirms Death of Abu Sayyaf Leader


The Philippine military has confirmed Khaddafy Janjalani - the leader of the country's most violent Muslim militant group, Abu Sayyaf - is dead. Douglas Bakshian reports for VOA News from Manila.

Philippine military chief, General Hermogenes Esperon, confirmed Saturday the death of Khaddafy Janjalani.

Speaking to reporters in Manila, Esperon said U.S. genetic tests prove the remains found on the island of Jolo in December are those of the Abu Sayyaf leader.

The tests compared tissue samples of Janjalani with those of his brother, Hector, who is serving a prison sentence.

Authorities believe Janjalani was actually killed in September in a clash with Philippine soldiers on Jolo island, but his body was not recovered at that time.

The United States had offered a $5 million reward for the capture of Janjalani. He was on the U.S. list of most wanted terrorists and had been indicted by a U.S. court for the kidnapping and killing of American missionary, Martin Burnham, in 2002.

The Abu Sayyaf leader and his commanders have been blamed for numerous bloody attacks in the Philippines - including the bombing of a ferry that killed more than 100 people in 2004.

The Philippine military has been targeting Abu Sayyaf in its anti-terror campaign. Just days ago Philippine troops killed on Jolo another key figure, Abu Sulaiman, who had claimed responsibility for the ferry bombing.

Singapore-based terrorism expert, Rohan Gunaratna, author of "Inside Al-Qaida: Global Network of Terror", says the deaths of both commanders have hurt the militant organization.

"[The] Abu Sayyaf group has been very significantly disrupted and degraded. Targeting operational leaders is paramount to stop terrorist attacks," he said.

Abu Sayyaf members have said they were fighting for an Islamic homeland in the southern Philippines, but the group is best known for its kidnappings-for-ransom schemes.

Abu Sayyaf is said to have ties to the Southeast Asian Islamic terrorist group, Jemaah Islamiyah, which is best known for its deadly bomb attacks on the Indonesia island of Bali in 2002 and 2005 - which killed more than 200 people.

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