Philippines: Military offensive in south to continue through Ramadan

Manila, 31 August (AKI) - The Philippine military's offensive against Islamist militants in the country's troubled south will continue through the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, defence secretary Gilberto Teodoro announced, quoted by the Philippines News Agency.

"We cannot stop the offensives because of Ramadan," Teodoro said. The military action against rebels from al-Qaeda linked Abu Sayyaf in Basilan province, 900 kilometres south of Manila, and in nearby Jolo island will continue through Ramadan, which starts in mid-September, he confirmed.

"When and where the operations will be conducted are up to the commanders, but we cannot unilaterally go above their heads and stop it," Teodoro stressed

His declaration followed appeals from some quarters, including Muslim religious groups, to temporarily halt the offensive against Abu Sayyaf.

Thousands of government troops have been deployed to Basilan and Sulu provinces in a bid to route the Abu Sayyaf rebels and militants from the southeast Asian regional terrorist network Jemaah Islamiyah there.

The move followed bloody fighting that has left more than 100 soliders and Abu Sayyaf fighters dead, according to the Philippines News Agency.

Two Jemaah Islamiyah militants are said to be with the rebels in Sulu. Dulmatin and Umar Patek are believed to be responsible for the 2002 Bali nightclub attacks, in which more than 200 people were killed.


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