The Latest: Clashes with Abu Sayyaf raise tourism concerns

AP News
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Posted: Apr 12, 2017 4:14 AM
The Latest: Clashes with Abu Sayyaf raise tourism concerns

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — The Latest on clashes between Philippine forces and suspected militants (all times local):

3:30 p.m.

Clashes between Philippine troops and suspected Abu Sayyaf militants have raised concerns about tourism in the central province where the fighting is occurring.

Jaypee Orcullo, an officer of the Department of Tourism in Bohol province, says some tourists canceled hotel reservations. He estimated around 10 percent may have canceled their online booking.

But he said the situation is normal at the white sand beaches of Bohol's Panglao island that are frequented by tourists, and the province's capital Tagbilaran. The site of the fighting that started Tuesday is an isolated area a three-hour road ride away from Panglao, and about two hours away from Tagbilaran.

Orcullo said officials from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and Hong Kong are scheduled to meet in Bohol next week and many hotels are fully booked.

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1 p.m.

The young Abu Sayyaf commander killed in battle had been regarded by the Philippine military as a possible future leader of the brutal militants linked to the Islamic State group.

A picture of Moammar Askali's body was obtained by The Associated Press as the military confirmed his death.

Military chief of staff Gen. Eduardo Ano said Askali, who uses the nom de guerre Abu Rami, had been linked to "a lot of atrocities" and could have led more ransom kidnappings and other attacks if he had not been killed on central Bohol island Tuesday.

Ano adds that Askali was "trying to make a name of his own, trying to arrange a career" to replace Abu Sayyaf's current leaders.

Security officials viewed him as hard-liner among the emerging commanders of the Abu Sayyaf.

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11 a.m. Wednesday

The Philippine military chief says troops have killed a key Abu Sayyaf commander who had been blamed for the beheadings of two Canadians and a German hostage and was with militants who clashed with government forces on a central resort island.

Military chief of staff Gen. Eduardo Ano tells The Associated Press that troops have recovered and identified the remains of Moammar Askali at the scene of the battle in a far-flung coastal village on Bohol island, where five other Abu Sayyaf gunmen were killed, along with four soldiers and policemen. They apparently had traveled there on another kidnapping mission.

Ano says troops took the picture of the slain Askali and that captured Abu Sayyaf militants identified the young militant leader, who also used the nom de guerre Abu Rami.

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11 p.m. Tuesday

Officials said least nine people were killed Tuesday in a gunbattle between Philippine forces and suspected Abu Sayyaf militants on a central resort island.

The location is far from the extremists' southern jungle bases and in a region where the U.S. government has warned that the gunmen may be plotting kidnappings.

Military officials said at least five gunmen, three soldiers and a policeman have died in the ongoing gunbattle in a village in the coastal town of Inabanga in Bohol province.

Sporadic firefights continued by nightfall in Inabanga's Napo village and two outlying villages, where residents have fled to safety. Commando troops flew to Bohol to reinforce government forces, officials said.