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Philippine Military Says Pursuing Abu Sayyaf Chief

About 1,000 Philippine troops have been deployed to try to capture the leader of the Muslim Abu Sayyaf rebel group, linked by the United States to al Qaeda, a senior military official said on Wednesday. A local mayor said on Tuesday he had seen the reclusive Khadaffy Janjalani and 70 heavily armed followers over the weekend near the shore of Palimbang, on the southern island of Mindanao. Janjalani is blamed by the Philippines for the deaths of two hostages — American missionary Martin Burnham and Filipina nurse Ediborah Yap — killed during a military rescue attempt last year. Southern military commander Major General Roy Kyamko told reporters that two battalions, each numbering about 500 soldiers, had been sent to the area to pursue Janjalani, one of the five top Abu Sayyaf leaders Washington has offered a reward of up to $5 million for information leading to their capture. The Abu Sayyaf is one of four rebel groups seeking an Islamic homeland in the overwhelmingly Christian Philippines, but its separatist cause has mutated into violent kidnappings for ransom, including several beheadings. Full Story

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