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Muslim militant attack in Philippines kills six: army

MANILA, September 27, 2011 (AFP) - Muslim militants attacked a remote village on a strife-torn island in the southern Philippines on Tuesday and killed six people, the army said.

One soldier, a pro-government militiaman and four residents of the isolated village on Basilan island died in the raid that was carried out by the Abu Sayyaf group, said local military chief Colonel Alex Macario.

"They harassed the community and our forces reacted to protect the civilians and there was fighting. Unfortunately, we had casualties," Macario said.

Five residents of the mainly Muslim populated town were also wounded, he said.

Macario said he did not yet know why the militants attacked. A police report said it was the result of a "long-standing family feud", but did not elaborate.

Basilan is regarded as one of the main strongholds for the Abu Sayyaf, a small gang of Islamic militants founded in the 1990s with the help of Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda network.

The Abu Sayyaf killed seven soldiers on Basilan in July in one of the deadliest clashes in recent years.

The group is also blamed for the country's worst terrorist attacks, including the beheadings of a US tourist kidnapped in 2001 and the bombing of a passenger ferry in Manila Bay in 2004 that killed more than 100 people.

Tuesday's assault came two days after a Muslim militant group that the army said was allied to the Abu Sayyaf attacked a military outpost securing a US-funded school construction project on neighbouring Jolo island.

Two Filipino Marines and 13 assailants were killed.

US special forces have been stationed in the southern Philippines for a decade to help train the military in combating the Abu Sayyaf, although they are not allowed to have a combat role.

Although the military has said it has captured or killed most of the Abu Sayyaf leadership, bringing their membership down to about 400, the group has shown resilience and recruited new fighters.


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