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Leader of Filipino terror group is killed in gunfight

Published January 18, 2007


MANILA, Philippines - A top al-Qaida-linked militant, accused of the kidnapping of three Americans in 2001 and of masterminding one of Southeast Asia's worst terror attacks three years later, has been killed, the Philippine military said Wednesday.

Jainal Antel Sali Jr., popularly known as Abu Sulaiman - a top leader of the Abu Sayyaf rebel group - died in a fierce gunbattle Tuesday with army special forces, the military chief, Gen. Hermogenes Esperon, said.

Sulaiman, 41, is the highest-ranking Abu Sayyaf commander killed by U.S.-backed troops. Washington had offered up to $5-million for his capture.

In a separate operation, the alleged leader of another al-Qaida-linked terror group was arrested in the southern Philippines, an official said.

The suspect, Kule Mamagong, is accused of plotting an October bombing in the city of Makilala, which killed eight.

Sulaiman allegedly helped plot a February 2004 bombing that triggered a ferry fire, killing 116 people in Southeast Asia's second-worst terror attack.

But he was best known in the United States, perhaps, as the alleged mastermind of the kidnapping of three Americans and Filipino tourists in 2001. One of the Americans, Guillermo Sobero, was beheaded. Martin Burnham was killed during a rescue attempt.

The kidnappings prompted Philippine authorities to allow U.S. troops into the Mindanao region to train and arm Filipino soldiers working to wipe out Abu Sayyaf. On Tuesday, army forces raided Sulaiman's camp, sparking a three-hour gunbattle through dense forests, said Maj. Eugene Batara, regional army spokesman.

At his news conference, Esperon displayed a picture of the slain militant, then stood up to put an "x" across Sulaiman's face in a U.S. poster of most-wanted terror suspects.




[Last modified January 18, 2007, 00:48:28]

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