Philippine troops kill 40 Abu Sayyaf extremists in south

Updated 11 July 2016
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Philippine troops kill 40 Abu Sayyaf extremists in south

MANILA, Philippines: Philippine troops have killed 40 Abu Sayyaf extremists and wounded 25 others in two battlefronts in the first major counterterrorism offensive in the south under the new president, the military said Monday.
Regional military spokesman Maj. Filemon Tan said 22 militants had been killed and 16 others wounded in the assaults that started last week in the jungles of Sulu, a predominantly Muslim province where the ransom-seeking militants are also believed to be holding a number of foreign hostages.
One soldier had been killed in the fighting in impoverished Sulu, about 590 miles (950 kilometers) south of Manila, he said.
On the nearby island province of Basilan, 18 Abu Sayyaf fighters had been killed and nine others wounded in a simultaneous offensive centering in the town of Tipo Tipo, according to Tan.
The thousands of troops waging the assaults were backed by rocket-firing helicopters and artillery fire.
President Rodrigo Duterte, who started his six-year term on June 30, has warned the Abu Sayyaf to stop a wave of ransom kidnappings, saying he would eventually confront them. His military chief said last week a looming offensive would “shock and awe” the extremists.
While past presidents have regarded Abu Sayyaf militants as bandits thriving on kidnappings for ransom and extortion, Duterte said last week he would not lump them with criminals. “These were the guys who were driven to desperation,” he said.
The militants, however, have shown no sign of heeding Duterte’s call to stop kidnappings, which he said has sullied the country’s image.
Indonesian officials said Monday that suspected Abu Sayyaf gunmen kidnapped three Indonesian fishermen over the weekend off Lahad Datu in the Malaysian part of northern Borneo, the latest among several offshore attacks that have sparked a regional security alarm.
Washington and Manila list the Abu Sayyaf, which has more than 400 armed fighters, as a terrorist organization for deadly bombings, ransom kidnappings and beheadings over the last three decades.


ASEAN may be forced to choose between US, China: Cambodia PM’s son

Updated 2 min 54 sec ago
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ASEAN may be forced to choose between US, China: Cambodia PM’s son

  • Cambodia has become an unlikely staging ground for geopolitical influence in Asia
  • The economic ripples of the trade spat between China and the US could destabilize global supply chain links in Southeast Asia
BANGKOK: Southeast Asian nations may soon have to “choose sides” between the US and China in their ongoing trade war, the political heir to Cambodia’s strongman ruler Hun Sen warned Wednesday in rare public comments.
Impoverished Cambodia has become an unlikely staging ground for geopolitical influence in Asia.
In recent years it has turned into a key China ally, heading off criticism of the superpower over its claims to disputed seas in exchange for billions of dollars in investment and loans.
While China has cozied up to Cambodia, the United States and the European Union have admonished Hun Sen, the nation’s ruler for 33 years, for his increasingly authoritarian rule.
In a rare speech outside of his country, his son, Hun Many warned the US-China trade spat may create lasting divisions in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
“Perhaps one day ASEAN would have to choose between US or China,” Hun Many said in Bangkok.
“How would we see the trade war spill or expanded in other areas? Surely it will pressure individual members of ASEAN or ASEAN as a whole to choose sides.”
The economic ripples of the trade spat between China and the US could destabilize global supply chain links in Southeast Asia, while a slump in Chinese spending would impact its trading partners.
Cambodia’s strongman Hun Sen has welcomed Chinese investment to pump-prime his country’s economy.
At the same time, he has accused the US of trying to foment revolution in Cambodia by supporting his critics.
Both the US and EU decried the July elections, which were held without a credible opposition and gave Hun Sen another term in power.
When asked which of the superpowers Cambodia would side with, the Australian-educated Hun Many demurred.
“At the end of the day, it depends on those who are involved to take a more responsible approach for their decisions that affects the entire world,” he said.
Earlier this week, Hun Sen swatted away concerns that Beijing will construct a naval base off the southwest coast of Cambodia, which would provide ready access to the disputed South China Sea.
Beijing claims most of the flashpoint area, infuriating the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Taiwan who all have competing claims to its islands and potentially resource-rich waters.
Hun Many, who described himself as a “proud son,” is widely believed to be in the running to one day replace his father.
His elder brother, Manit, is the head of a military intelligence unit while Manet, the oldest, was promoted in September to the chief of joint staff of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces as well as the commander of the infantry army headquarters.
But Many brushed aside the notion.
“It is way too soon to say that I am in the next generation of leaders,” he said.