Philippine troops killed in ambush by Islamist gunmen

Philippine special forces hunt for Abu Sayyaf fighters [File/Ted Aljibe/AFP]
Updated 17 November 2018
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Philippine troops killed in ambush by Islamist gunmen

  • Philippine military says five soldiers killed and 23 more wounded
  • Abu Sayyaf is now believed to hold less than 10 hostages

MANILA: Militants have killed five Philippine soldiers and wounded 23 others in a major ambush by members of a notorious Islamist kidnap-for-ransom group, the Philippine military said Saturday.
The soldiers were searching for hostages taken by the Abu Sayyaf group when the gunmen attacked them on the southern Philippine island of Jolo on Friday, regional military spokesman Lt. Col. Gerry Besana told reporters.
“The effort is part of our mission to rescue the remaining hostages,” Besana said.
The Abu Sayyaf is a loose alliance of several hundred armed militants formed in the 1990s with seed money from Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda network.
Friday’s clash was one of the deadliest since an Abu Sayyaf faction joined other foreign and Filipino militants in seizing the southern Philippine city of Marawi last year, leading to a five-month battle that claimed more than 1,100 lives.
The Abu Sayyaf is now believed to hold “less than 10” hostages, Besana said.
The group is based in the strife-torn southern islands but its members began in 2016 to kidnap sailors in the waters between Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines.
The militants have also raided and taken hostages from resorts in the southern Philippines and neighboring Malaysia.
Most of the hostages have been ransomed off for huge amounts of money and several were beheaded, including two Canadian tourists in 2016. A Dutch birdwatcher abducted on a nearby island in 2012 is believed to be among those still in Abu Sayyaf’s hands.
The Dutchman’s Swiss colleague escaped in 2014 after grabbing a kidnapper’s machete and killing him.
The soldiers who survived Friday’s ambush did not see any hostages during the 90-minute clash near the town of Patikul, Besana said.


Polish PM cancels Israel visit amid new Holocaust tensions

Updated 17 February 2019
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Polish PM cancels Israel visit amid new Holocaust tensions

  • Netanyahu made an off-hand comment last week during a conference in Warsaw that “Poles cooperated with the Nazis”

WARSAW: A Polish government official says Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki will not attend a meeting in Israel starting Monday amid new tensions between the two countries over how to remember Polish behavior during the Holocaust.
Michal Dworczyk, who heads Morawiecki’s chancellery, announced the change of plans on Sunday.
Netanyahu made an off-hand comment last week during a Middle East conference in Warsaw that “Poles cooperated with the Nazis” — wording suggesting some Poles during the German occupation of Poland participated in killing Jews.
He was initially quoted by the Jerusalem Post as saying “the Poles,” which could be taken as blaming the entire Polish nation.
Both Netanyahu’s office and the newspaper say he was misquoted in an editing error, but the Polish government said it was not satisfied.