Philippines Pledges to Pursue Militants Despite Ramadan

Posted August 1st, 2011 at 7:10 am (UTC-5)
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Philippines officials say there will be no let-up in their pursuit of a militant group that beheaded two soldiers last week, even as the military winds down other operations during Ramadan.

President Benigno Aquino said Monday that the pursuit of the Abu Sayyaf guerrillas would remain the focus of military operations in the Muslim-dominated southern Philippines.

Seven soldiers were killed and 26 were wounded in a battle last week near the remote headquarters of the al-Qaida-linked group. The militants beheaded two of the soldiers before fleeing into the jungle.

Officials said they would try to avoid engaging the group in populated areas in order not to disturb the peaceful observance of the Muslim holy month.

Philippine forces traditionally suspend major operations in the south during Ramadan out of respect for the Muslim population. The government is especially eager not to offend the public this year because of ongoing peace talks with a major Muslim separatist group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Abu Sayyaf says it is fighting for a Muslim homeland, but is best known for a series of kidnappings for ransom. It is suspected of being responsible for the kidnapping of two Americans and their Philippine relative a few weeks ago.