Philippine troops kill 3 militants, rescue trader

AP News
Posted: Sep 19, 2011 9:28 AM
Philippine troops kill 3 militants, rescue trader

Dozens of army troops killed three Abu Sayyaf militants and rescued a kidnap victim Monday in a clash in the southern Philippines, officials said.

The rescued businesswoman, Luisa Galvez, an army soldier and at least seven militants were wounded in the gunbattle that raged in a hinterland village near Sumisip town on Basilan island, regional military spokesman Lt. Col. Randolph Cabangbang said.

Three platoons of army scout rangers were searching for gunmen reported by villagers when they stumbled on an undetermined number of Abu Sayyaf militants, setting off a clash that killed three of the gunmen. The other militants fled and troops later found Galvez abandoned at the scene of the battle, Cabangbang said.

"The soldiers were unaware that the Abu Sayyaf men were holding a hostage in the area," Cabangbang said.

The stunned Galvez, who was slightly injured on her leg, was taken to a military camp, he said. Troops were pursuing the fleeing militants in predominantly Muslim Basilan, the birthplace and a stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf militants about 550 miles (880 kilometers) south of Manila.

Galvez, 34, was seized Sept. 4 by three gunmen who posed as customers at her beauty salon in Ipil town in Zamboanga Sibugay province, police said.

Desperate for funds, the al-Qaida-linked Abu Sayyaf has resorted to kidnappings, targeting people who could hardly pay ransom. Last year the group carried out at least 11 kidnappings and raised about $704,000 in ransom, according to a confidential government report seen by The Associated Press in February.

They killed at least six hostages whose families failed to pay ransom last year, the report said.

The Abu Sayyaf, which has close to 400 fighters with more than 300 firearms, remains without a central leader after several of its top commanders were killed or captured by troops in recent years. Its two biggest factions are based in Basilan and in nearby Sulu province.

The Abu Sayyaf still holds two Americans of Philippine descent, an Indian, a Malaysian and a Japanese convert to Islam.

Gunmen on a motorcycle, meanwhile, snatched a 7-year-old child from her horrified mother Monday in North Cotabato, a southern province where other Muslim rebel groups and kidnap gangs are active.

The mother was walking with her daughter near their home in Pikit town when the two gunmen approached and grabbed the child from her, telling her it was a kidnapping, North Cotabato Gov. Emmylou Mendoza said.

The kidnappers fled with the child toward a marshy area where Muslim guerrillas and outlaws are based. Police and soldiers were searching for them.

Gunmen disguised as policemen also abducted a farm supply store owner in southern Cagayan de Oro City on Monday.

The kidnappers barged into the store, disarmed a guard and took Manuel Boniao at gunpoint. No group has claimed responsibility for the abduction, police said.