Philippine security forces rescued a Chinese hostage and killed five suspected militants in a daylight raid on a terrorist training camp in the south, officials said on Friday.
One of the country’s most-wanted terrorist suspects, Khair Mundus, was wounded but managed to escape during Thursday’s assault by police commandos on the Abu Sayyaf rebel hideout in Zamboanga city, said regional police director Apolio Estilles.
The freed hostage, Yuan Kai Lin, is the vice president for operations of the mining company Li-Lo Minerals Traders and is from Shenzhen. He was one of two Chinese businessmen kidnapped from a rented apartment last month by the al-Qaeda-linked terror group. The other was released earlier.
The five men killed in the 20-minute firefight belonged to Mundus’ terrorist cell, officials said.
The latest raid “exemplifies the government’s unwavering commitment to crush the Abu Sayyaf and put an end to their kidnapping and terror activities,” said senior security official Felizario Serapio Jr.
The US Department of Justice has offered a US$500,000 reward for information leading to Mundus’ capture, describing him as a key leader and financier of the Abu Sayyaf. He was arrested in 2004 on the first-ever money laundering charges against terrorists in the Philippines. He confessed to having arranged the transfer of funds from al-Qaeda to the Abu Sayyaf to be used in bombings throughout Mindanao, the southern region where minority Muslims have been fighting for self-rule in the predominantly Christian nation.
Mundus escaped from jail in 2007.
Thursday’s raid, in which one Abu Sayyaf suspect was arrested, was based on intelligence that the group had set up a training camp in a secluded part of Zamboanga, a major port city that was targeted by militants in the past. Initial reports by police show the camp was used to hide kidnap victims and Abu Sayyaf members.
The Presidential Anti-Organised Crime Commission also took part in the raid.
Earlier Friday, the military said Abu Sayyaf fighters ambushed security guards and labourers from a rubber plantation on nearby Basilan Island, killing three men and wounding six others.
Training and intelligence-sharing by hundreds of US forces and military advisers in the southern Philippines has resulted in the killing and capture of key Abu Sayyaf leaders, but about 400 militants remain active and are holding several foreigners hostage.