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PIA Press Release

Six soldiers wounded in Jolo fighting

ZAMBOANGA (9 October) -- Fighting in the southern Philippines has intensified following the arrest of the wife of a senior Jemaah Islamiyah militant, the military said.

In a firefight late Sunday in the mountains of Jolo island, six Army Scout Rangers were wounded and an unknown number of Abu Sayyaf militants killed or wounded, said military spokesman Major Eugene Batara.

The Abu Sayyaf is believed to be protecting Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) bomb experts Dulmatin and Umar Patek -- wanted for their part in the 2002 bombing on the Indonesian resort island of Bali that killed over 200 people, mostly Australian tourists.

Dulmatin's wife, Istiada H. Oemar Sovie, an Indonesian national, was arrested in the area last week. She is in custody and has admitted being a courier for bomb-making materials for the JI.

Batara said that, based on ground reports, troops were believed to have inflicted "heavy casualties" on the Abu Sayyaf, while six rangers were wounded.

The wounded were airlifted to a military hospital, he said, adding that the intensified campaign against the Abu Sayyaf and the JI bombers would continue.

Dulmatin and Umar Patek are believed to have slipped into the country in 2003, seeking to forge links between the JI and the larger Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) group.

The 12,000-strong MILF, however, turned them down after signing a truce with the government in the same year to pave the way for peace talks.

The two then sought shelter and protection from the smaller, but more ruthless Abu Sayyaf group.

Both the JI and the Abu Sayyaf are on the US government's list of foreign terrorist organizations and are believed to have existing or previous links with Al-Qaeda, regional security experts say. (PIA) [top]

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