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.


Duterte foes cry foul as Philippine police push sedition charges

Updated 45 min 45 sec ago
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Duterte foes cry foul as Philippine police push sedition charges

  • Thirty-six opposition figures are accused of cyber libel and sedition
  • A series of online videos ahead of May’s mid-term elections alleged that Duterte and his family members were involved in the illegal drugs trade

MANILA: Opponents of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte expressed shock and outrage on Friday at police moves to charge dozens of them with sedition, calling it persecution aimed at stamping out scrutiny of his increasingly powerful rule.
Thirty-six opposition figures are accused of cyber libel and sedition for orchestrating a series of online videos ahead of May’s mid-term elections. The videos feature a hooded man alleging that Duterte and his family members were involved in the illegal drugs trade, which they deny.
The man, who had said he was a witness, later surrendered and appeared with police on television to say his claims were false and that he was cajoled into making the videos by opposition members. They included the vice president, lawyers, Catholic priests, a former attorney general, and incumbent and former lawmakers, the man said.
The justice department is looking into the complaint, which is the latest move against Duterte’s detractors who say the aim is to create a power monopoly for a president who already enjoys a legislative super-majority and a public approval rating of about 80 percent.
Duterte insists he is open to challenges but has shown no qualms about threatening high-profile critics, several of whom he said last month he would jail if they tried to impeach him.
Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said Duterte had no involvement in the police sedition complaint.
“We have nothing to do with this case, not at all, absolutely nothing,” he told news channel ANC. “Let the judicial process do its work.”
Antonio Trillanes, a former senator and Duterte’s strongest critic, described the complaint as “political persecution and harassment” intended to stifle democratic dissent.
A spokesman for Vice President Leni Robredo, who was not Duterte’s running mate and was elected separately, called the complaint “completely baseless.” Her party ally Senator Francis Pangilinan said it was part of a series of moves toward removing her from office.
Leila de Lima, an anti-Duterte senator detained on drugs charges, said it was “hogwash, pure hogwash,” and Samira Gutoc, a candidate in recent Senate elections, urged the police not to become partisan.
“I really am baffled,” Gutoc said of being accused of involvement.