POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Jan 9, 2011
MANILA » Philippine troops killed two suspected Abu Sayyaf gunmen and captured another during a clash in the country's volatile south Sunday, enforcing a new counterinsurgency plan that rules out any peace talks with the al-Qaida-linked militants.
Army troops caught up with an unspecified number of Abu Sayyaf fighters and allied rebels during an assault in the mountainous outskirts of Tipo Tipo town on Basilan island, sparking a 45-minute gunbattle, army chief Lt. Gen. Arturo Ortiz said.
Two militants were killed and another was captured by the soldiers, who recovered two M16 rifles with ammunition and a rocket-propelled grenade. There were no army casualties. The militants withdrew and were being pursued, Ortiz said.
Under a new six-year counterinsurgency plan that started to be enforced this month, the government has ruled out any peace talks with Abu Sayyaf, resolving to eradicate it by force. The militants have been blamed for kidnappings for ransom, beheadings and deadly bomb attacks.
The 120,000-strong military, however, will help foster peace talks with communist guerrillas and a larger Muslim group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, while dealing with their threats.
Washington has blacklisted Abu Sayyaf as a terrorist organization. Although they have been considerably weakened by battle casualties and surrenders, the militants still number about 340 and remain a national security threat, according to the military.