Troops killed in Philippine clashes

Philippines military say they are fighting Abu Sayyaf in restive southern islands.

    The military says it has launched a fresh offensive against fighters from the Abu Sayyaf [EPA]

    "This operation is part of our campaign to flush out the Abu Sayyaf which is responsible for a series of kidnappings," she told the AFP news agency.

    But Mohagher Iqbal, the chief negotiator for the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), a group fighting for a separate homeland for Filipino Muslims, told Al Jazeera that Abu Sayyaf members were not in the area and not involved in the clashes.

    "Three men from our forces were killed, and this was clearly a military offensive against our forces in Basilan," he said.


    "The situation will escalate if the military do not stop these attacks"

    Mohagher Iqbal,
    Moro Islamic Liberation Front

    "There was no Abu Sayyaf in our area. The military provoked and attacked our forces. The MILF is on defensive mode and the situation will escalate if the military do not stop these attacks."

    Philippine military commanders say they believe that the Abu Sayyaf is being supported by the MILF. 

    The MILF formed as a breakaway group in 1977, when it split from the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), which had called for an independent Islamic state a decade previously.

    Following the split, the MNLF subsequently entered into negotiations with the government in Manila and signed an agreement a decade later relinquishing its stated goal of independence.

    But the 12,000-strong MILF continue to fight for political autonomy and the group is one of four fighting for a separate Muslim state in the southern Philippines.

    The Abu Sayyaf split from the MNLF in the early 1990s and US intelligence agencies believe the group has ties to Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network.

    Abu Sayyaf fighters are particularly active on Basilan island, and although mainly known for kidnappings for ransom, the group has also admitted responsibility for a series of bomb attacks, including an attack on a ferry in February 2004 that killed more than 100 passengers.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


    Interactive: How does your country vote at the UN?

    Interactive: How does your country vote at the UN?

    Explore how your country voted on global issues since 1946, as the world gears up for the 74th UN General Assembly.

    'We were forced out by the government soldiers'

    'We were forced out by the government soldiers'

    We dialled more than 35,000 random phone numbers to paint an accurate picture of displacement across South Sudan.

    Interactive: Plundering Cambodia's forests

    Interactive: Plundering Cambodia's forests

    Meet the man on a mission to take down Cambodia's timber tycoons and expose a rampant illegal cross-border trade.