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Philippines Say Military Killed Key Abu Sayyaf Commander

Philippine military chief of staff Gen. Eduardo Ano gestures during a press conference to announce that Philippine troops had killed a key Abu Sayyaf commander, April 12, 2017.

Philippine troops have killed a key commander from the Abu Sayyaf militant group, the country's military chief said Wednesday.

Chief of staff General Eduardo Ano said the military recovered the body of Moammar Askali, also known as Abu Rami, in a village on Bohol island where Philippine forces clashed with Abu Sayyaf fighters.

Askali has been linked to the kidnapping and beheading of two Canadians last year and a German in February.

The military said Abu Sayyaf was attempting to carry out new kidnappings when they arrived by boat in the town of Inabanga, located on Bohol, a resort island outside of the areas in the southern Philippines where the group traditionally operates.

Clashes broke out when government forces went to investigate, and by Wednesday the fighting had left six militants, three soldiers and a policeman dead. The military said some fighting was still ongoing Wednesday as they worked to chase down remaining militants.

The U.S. Embassy in the Philippines issued a warning last week that it had received “unsubstantiated yet credible information” that terrorist groups may attempt kidnappings in Bohol and Cebu provinces.

The United States and the Philippines each consider Abu Sayyaf to be a terrorist organization.

The group has carried out numerous kidnappings, bombings and beheadings since its formation in the 1990s. In late February, Abu Sayyaf executed a German hostage after its deadline for a $600,000 ransom expired.