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Philippine Troops Report Killing Senior Abu Sayyaf Militant - 2004-04-08


The Philippine army says it has killed one of the top leaders of the Abu Sayyaf militant group, a man who was wanted by the United States for kidnapping and murder.

Military officials say Hamsiraji Sali and five other Abu Sayyaf members died in a firefight with an army unit on the island of Basilan Thursday. Four soldiers were wounded.

The United States had offered a $5 million bounty for Mr. Sali, who is suspected of having helped kidnap three Americans and a group of Filipinos from a resort in 2001. Two of the Americans ultimately died.

Army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Lucero says the shootout followed an intelligence tip. "It was, shall I say, a surgical strike. They've got good intelligence about the presence of these Abu Sayyaf members," he said.

The radical Islamic group, which is linked to the al-Qaida terrorist network, has been weakened recently with the deaths and arrests of several leaders. Last week, the government arrested six alleged members suspected of plotting a bombing campaign in Manila.

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