Philippine army chiefs have said they killed a key commander of the Islamist Abu Sayyaf terrorist group following clashes on Bohol island. The militant group was blamed for the beheading of a German sailor in March.
Philippine military chief General Eduardo Ano said on Wednesday that the army had recovered the remains of Moammar Askali, a senior leader of the Islamist militant group Abu Sayyaf.
This follows a second of day of clashes between the extremist group, which pledges allegiance to the so-called "Islamic State" jihadist group, and the Philippine military on the resort island of Bohol, an iconic tourist hotspot some 640 kilometers (397 miles) southeast of Manila.
At least nine people are said to have been killed - five gunmen, three soldiers and a policeman. Residents and holidaymakers have been forced to flee to safety.
Ano said that troops took photographs of the slain Askali, who also went by his nom de guerre Abu Rami. Captured Abu Sayyaf fighters later identified the body as that of the group's leader.
Kidnapping and beheading tourists
Abu Sayyaf is believed to have been behind the kidnapping and beheading of a German sailor in February. The horrific death, which was recorded, prompted outrage from Berlin. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte was forced to apologize to Germany for failing to save the victim while insisting that the 30 million pesos ($600,000, 565,000 euros) should not be paid.
The kidnap-for-ransom group also beheaded two Canadian tourists last year.
Abu Sayyaf, which is based on the remote island of Jolo some 500 kilometers southeast of Bohol, has been expanding its kidnapping activities in recent months, targeting more tourists and foreign crew members.
The militant group is believed to still be holding at least 26 more hostages, including 12 Vietnamese sailors, seven Indonesians and a Dutch man who was kidnapped in 2012.
Last September, Abu Sayyaf released a Norwegian man who had been held for almost a year after the group reportedly received a ransom payment said to be 30 million pesos.
dm/rt (AP, dpa, AFP)