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Abu Sayyaf subleader in Lamitan siege falls

September 19, 2010 12:44pm
(Updated 3:57 p.m.) A member of Al-Qaeda-linked bandit group Abu Sayyaf was nabbed Sunday morning in an encounter with government forces in Basilan province, the military said in a report.

Armed Forces of the Philippines western Mindanao command head Lt. Gen. Benjamin Dolorfino said Abdukarim Sali, alias Benjamin Sali or Ben Rafy, was arrested after a 10-minute firefight between the Abu Sayyaf and joint police and military troops in Lower Mangas village, Lantawan town, Basilan.

However, the Philippine National Police's Public Information Office said Sali was actually killed in the encounter. In a statement, PNP spokesman Senior Superintendent Agrimero Cruz Jr. also said Sali was an Abu Sayyaf subleader.

Recovered from him were high-powered firearms, including an M-16 rifle, an M-203 grenade launcher, ammunition, his cell phone, and other personal belongings.

Sali has a warrant of arrest against him and kidnapping with serious illegal detention charges for his supposed involvement in the so-called Lamitan siege in Basilan, where the Abu Sayyaf invaded Lamitan town and seized the Jose Maria Torres Memorial Hospital and the Saint Peter's church in June 2001. Soldiers and Abu Sayyaf bandits were then locked in a day-long firefight.

The government had placed a P350,000 bounty for Sali's arrest.

The Abu Sayyaf or al-Harakat al-Islamiya (bearer of the sword), was founded in 1991 in the southern province of Basilan. It has been blamed for bombings, kidnappings, and beheadings in southern Philippines.

Washington blacklisted the Abu Sayyaf, which has nearly 400 fighters, as a terrorist organization. Military offensives have killed or captured many of its commanders in recent years, leaving the group splintered in factions.

Recently, the Philippine Department of Justice filed a proscription case to outlaw the group.

The legal process of attaching the outlaw and terrorist tags is called proscription under Section 17 of the Human Security Act of 2007.

Under the law, the DOJ is tasked to file the case before a regional trial court, which will then declare a group as a terrorist organization or an enemy of the state. The proscription case against the Abu Sayyaf is the first to be filed by the DOJ under the law. —VS, GMANews.TV
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