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Philippine military believes militant's remains found

Former cohorts say the Abu Sayyaf leader was killed in September.

December 28, 2006|From the Associated Press

MANILA — Remains believed to be those of the chief of the Islamic militant group Abu Sayyaf have been found in the southern Philippines, the military said Wednesday.

Khadafi Abubakar Janjalani was a target of a months-long manhunt backed by the United States, which offered a $5-million reward. Janjalani was blamed for a series of beheadings, bombings and abductions.

The dense jungles of the southern Philippines have long offered cover to Janjalani and his Al Qaeda-linked group. Earlier reports of his death have proved to be wrong.

Lt. Col. Ariel Caculitan, a spokesman for the Philippine marines, said Wednesday that the remains were found buried in a remote neighborhood on Jolo island. Janjalani was believed to have been killed in a Sept. 4 clash with marines, Caculitan said.

"We are not yet officially confirming that it's him. We are still waiting for the results of the DNA examination," Caculitan said. He added that the U.S. was providing help in forensic tests. He did not know when the results would be ready.

He said former Abu Sayyaf members who had surrendered helped locate the burial site and said Janjalani had been shot in the neck. They said he had been carried "dying from the encounter site" to the burial location more than a mile away.

U.S.-backed Philippine troops launched an offensive on southern Jolo island in August searching for Janjalani and two cohorts, Indonesian terrorism suspects Umar Patek and Dulmatin.

Dulmatin, who goes by one name, and Patek are suspects in the 2002 Bali nightclub bombings that killed 202 people.

Janjalani and his commanders have been charged with several deadly attacks in the Philippines, including a 2004 bombing on a ferry that killed 116 people.

They also carried out a mass kidnapping in 2001 that left several hostages dead, including two Americans. The abductions sparked an influx of U.S. military counter-terrorism trainers who have been credited with helping the Philippine military weaken Abu Sayyaf.

Abu Sayyaf members say they are fighting to create a Muslim state in the southern Philippines, which has a large Muslim minority. The government calls them bandits who relied on abductions for ransoms.

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