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|Thursday, September 27, 2001, updated at 08:29(GMT+8)|
Roundup: Philippine Intensifies Fight Against Terrorist GroupShocked by the suicide attack in the United States, the Philippine government has intensified the fight against Abu Sayyaf, the local Muslim terrorist group which is on the list of 27 organizations being watched by the US government for its alleged links with Osama bin Laden.
At least 12 army and marine battalions have already been deployed in the southern island province of Basilan to operate against the Abu Sayyaf and rescue at least 18 hostages including two Americans kidnapped by the bandits.
Southern Command Chief Lt. Gen. Roy Cimatu said Wednesday their offensive against the bandit group which is notorious for kidnapping-for-ransom activities, can be accomplished earlier than the timetable, which is set on November.
The movement of the bandits have been restricted and that they could be confined to only a small areas in the middle of Basilan, Cimatu said.
The military has also established a "perimeter belt" to prevent the entry of the bandits. This is in anticipation against any Abu Sayyaf plan to divert the attention of the military pursuing them in the hills of the province by staging more kidnappings, burning of homes and looting of villages.
Joint operations by the police and the military have neutralized several Abu Sayyaf leaders with bounty on their heads. The Latest captured ranking Abu Sayyaf member is Mario Benigno, who is found out to be responsible in procurement of firearms and ammunitions for the bandits group.
The military and police have also butted an Abu Sayyaf ring in Metro Manila, arrested the leader and foiled their plan to conduct bomb attacks against key government and private installations in the capital region.
There are reports saying that during the Afghan War in 1979- 1989, Filipino Muslims led by Abu Sayyaf founder Abdulrajak Janjalani went to Afghanistan to fight the Russians. After he came back to the Philippines, Janjalani formed the Abu Sayyaf in early 1990s.
Reports also said that Bin Laden, the prime suspect of the suicide bombing attacks in the U.S. on September 11, has extended financial aid to the Abu Sayyaf.
National Security Adviser Roilo Golez has said the government is doing everything within legal limits to disable local networks believed to be backing international terrorists, particularly the Abu Sayyaf, which is said to have amassed millions of pesos in ransom payments from previous kidnapping activities.
The government is also seeking help from the U.S. against the Abu Sayyaf in surveillance and intelligence gathering since three U.S. citizens are involved -- a couple still in hands of the bandits, and a man who is believed to have been beheaded by his captors.
While spelling out measures and policies in actions against terrorism on Wednesday, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo said the country will "think globally but act locally" in the war.
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