Terrorist hurt in gunbattle with RP troops

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — A TOP Indonesian terror suspect and a Filipino militant were reportedly wounded during a fierce gunbattle with troops on southern Jolo island last week, military chief Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said Thursday.

Indonesian militant Dulmatin, who goes by one name, and Abu Sayyaf commander Umbra Jumdail, also known as Dr. Abu Pula, were said to have been wounded in a clash near Sulu’s Maimbung and Indanan towns, Esperon said, citing reports from troops and villagers.

“It’s not yet confirmed, but it’s very likely,” Esperon told reporters.

The military was trying to confirm details, including the nature of the wounds.

“If you have a wounded comrade, the tendency would be to avoid engaging in operations and simply hide,” Esperon said.

More than 5,000 soldiers are now pursuing the bandit group in Sulu, and another 4,000 men are hunting down another terrorist group led by Isnilon Hapilon.

Amid a lull in the fighting, Senator Juan Ponce Enrile yesterday said the government should press its attack on the insurgents even if it was engaged in peace talks.

“The protracted negotiations, both with the Left and other armed groups challenging the government, are counterproductive to the interest of the nation,” Enrile told a weekly forum.

He added that the government should end the talks if they brought no benefits.

“If there is none, you are just postponing the problem and you are making it bigger,” he said.

Dulmatin and another Indonesian militant, Umar Patek, have reportedly been given sanctuary on Sulu by Abu Sayyaf commanders Radulan Sahiron and Umbra Jumdail, whose forces, along with Moro National Liberation Front guerrillas, killed 25 soldiers in a road ambush and clashes a week ago.

Jumdail’s son and a key Sahiron aide also were killed, the military said.

The two Indonesians, believed to be key operatives of the Jemaah Islamiyah terror network, have long been hunted by the United States, Philippine and Indonesian authorities for allegedly helping mastermind the 2002 Bali nightclub bombings that killed 202 people.

They are believed to have fled in 2003 to Mindanao, where they provided bomb-making and religious training and helped plot attacks with local militants, according to the military.

Washington has offered a $10-million reward for Dulmatin’s capture and $1 million for Patek. A $100,000 reward has been offered by the US for the capture or killing of Jumdail.

The latest outbreak of fighting stemmed from government efforts to serve warrants of arrest on Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters and Abu Sayyaf bandits who killed 14 Marines last July 10.

Unable to serve the warrants to about 130 suspects, the police have returned them to the court that issued them.