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Philippine Troops Hunting for Escapee Kill 3 Gunmen

August 11, 2003|From Associated Press

MANILA — Army troops searching for a suspected Islamic militant clashed with unidentified men in the southern Philippines on Sunday, killing three gunmen, the military said. Six soldiers were wounded.

The separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front has warned that the massive hunt for Fathur Rohman Al Ghozi could threaten peace talks. Troops have deployed near the group's strongholds in two southern provinces to hunt for him.

The fighting broke out in the southern town of Sultan Naga Dimaporo, military spokesman Lt. Col. Daniel Lucero said. The military and the rebels said they were trying to figure out who the gunmen were.

Al Ghozi is an Indonesian suspected in deadly bombing attacks in the Philippines. He escaped last month from a prison where he was serving a 12-year term for illegally possessing explosives, and is a confessed member of the Jemaah Islamiah extremist group, which authorities say has links to Al Qaeda.

Government representatives who met with rebels over the weekend said military operations were aimed at capturing Al Ghozi and were not an attack against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, said the front's spokesman, Eid Kabalu.

Kabalu said the front feared that some military officials want to undermine planned peace talks by accusing the guerrillas of giving refuge to Al Ghozi.

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