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Posted: 6/21/2002 10:53:16 AM EDT
Abu Sabaya was the leader of the Philippine Muslim terrorist group Abu Sayyef. He was responsible for the kidnapping and murder by beheading of California businessman Guillermo Sobrero. He also kidnapped Kansas missionaries Martin and Gracia Burnham, and may have been responsible for ordering Martin Burnham killed during a rescue attempt by Philippine troops 13 days ago.
By OLIVER TEVES .c The Associated Press ZAMBOANGA, Philippines (June 21) - A Muslim guerrilla leader whose fighters kidnapped two Kansas missionaries and scores of other people was shot in a clash with U.S.-trained troops Friday and may be dead, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said Friday. Navy personnel were searching the waters off southern Mindanao island for the body of Abu Sabaya, the most visible of the extremist group's commanders, who often called local media with demands and statements taunting the government. He was one of three guerrillas who jumped off a boat after being wounded in a firefight with elite navy troops, Arroyo said. She said four guerrillas were captured. A soldier told his superiors that he shot Sabaya in the back and saw his body sink in the water, officials said. ''The captured Abu Sayyaf members confirmed that one of those who jumped into the sea was Abu Sabaya, who was wearing a black sweat shirt,'' the president said. ''The (military) team also confirmed shooting the man in the black sweat shirt.'' The Philippine military said it had been hot on Sabaya's trail since two of the group's last three hostages - American Martin Burnham and Filipina Ediborah Yap - were killed during a June 7 clash along with three rebels. Burnham's wife, Gracia, was rescued injured but alive. Washington recently offered a $5 million bounty for Abu Sabaya's capture. ''We did get word from the (Philippine military) that Abu Sabaya was one of those killed in the encounter,'' said Maj. Richard Sater, a spokesman for U.S. forces conducting a counterterrorism training exercise aimed at helping local troops wipe out the Abu Sayyaf, who are believed to have links to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network. ''We are encouraged. It is a step forward in the war against terrorism.'' Arroyo, who repeatedly has vowed to crush the Abu Sayyaf, congratulated the military in a written statement, adding: ''Terrorists will be hunted down relentlessly wherever they are. They will be given no room to maneuver, to hide, or to rest. We will not stop until they are all accounted for.'' She said the clash occurred around 4:30 a.m. half a mile offshore in Zamboanga del Norte province, site of the June 7 clash. Sater said Americans provided unspecified support during the clash but were not directly involved in the fighting. ''We're here to advise and assist. We helped out in that capacity this morning, providing some surveillance and communication, that sort of thing,'' Sater said. Asked whether Americans were nearby, Sater said: ''Yes, but I can't say how near.''
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Link Posted: 6/21/2002 10:54:06 AM EDT
Southern military commander Maj. Gen. Ernesto Carolina said the soldiers observed a boat ''surreptitiously'' sailing from a coastal village and followed it for about 45 minutes. The soldiers, using night-vision goggles, decided to intercept it after they saw seven armed men on board. As they approached, the soldiers came under fire and shot back, hitting Sabaya and two others who fell overboard, Carolina said. The soldiers then used their speed boat to ram the other vessel, damaging it severely. The firearms of the four other gunmen fell into the water, and they surrendered, Carolina said. He said one soldier fired from only three yards at one of the gunmen trying to swim away in a black sweatshirt, identified as Sabaya by the four other gunmen. The soldier ''positively, categorically said he was sure that he hit Sabaya in the back and he saw his body sink in the water,'' Carolina said, adding that he had no doubts that Sabaya was dead. ''This is a matter of getting the body,'' he said. Naval personnel were scouring the waters and nearby shores. Troops earlier said they found Sabaya's trademark sunglasses and backpack at the site of the June 7 clash in the dense jungle of Zamboanga del Norte province on the main southern island of Mindanao. Carolina said troops followed the Abu Sayyaf footprints to a coastal village. Sabaya led a band of guerrillas in a pre-dawn raid on a resort on May 27, 2001, in which they snatched 20 hostages without firing a shot. The captives included three Americans, missionaries Martin and Gracia Burnham of Wichita, Kan., and Guillermo Sobero of Corona, Calif. The group later beheaded Sobero. Using speedboats purchased with ransoms from another mass abduction a year earlier, the guerrillas transported the hostages across the Sulu Sea to Basilan island. The massive search that followed would lead to an ongoing six-month deployment of 1,000 American troops to provide training and high-tech support to Philippine troops. The group reportedly got early support from the al-Qaida terrorist network, but had steadily moved toward becoming a bandit gang, thriving on kidnapping-for-ransom. Sabaya, whose real name is Aldam Tilao, once studied computer engineering. After visiting Saudi Arabia for work, he returned home in the late 1980s and later disappeared.
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AP-NY-06-21-02 0822EDT
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Link Posted: 6/21/2002 10:56:29 AM EDT
Link Posted: 6/21/2002 11:55:52 AM EDT
It's too bad about the missionary Abu Sabaya killed when all the missionary was doing is spreading the Lord's gospel to those poor people.
Link Posted: 6/21/2002 11:57:28 AM EDT
If it's true, the water in the gene pool just got a little cleaner.
Link Posted: 6/21/2002 12:49:04 PM EDT
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