Philippine troops battling militants in a central province killed a key Abu Sayyaf commander who'd been blamed for the beheadings of two Canadians and a German hostage and was apparently attempting another kidnapping mission, the country's military chief says. Gen. Eduardo Ano, the military's chief of staff, tells the AP that troops have recovered and identified the remains of Moammar Askali, who used the nom de guerre Abu Rami, at the scene of the battle in a far-flung coastal village on Bohol island, where five other Abu Sayyaf gunmen were killed in fighting Tuesday, along with four soldiers and policemen.
Ano says captured Abu Sayyaf militants identified the young militant leader after his death. "This is a major blow to the Abu Sayyaf," he says. "If they have further plans to kidnap innocent people somewhere, they will now have to think twice." The military chief says Askali led militants who traveled by speedboats from their jungle lairs in southern Sulu province to Bohol province in an apparent bid to carry out another kidnapping in a region that's popular for its beach resorts and wildlife. Sporadic gunbattles between the remaining Abu Sayyaf militants and government forces continued Wednesday, military officials say.