A FEARED Muslim rebel leader and one of the suspected masterminds of the 2002 Bali bombings escaped a dawn raid on their island hideout in the southern Philippines today.
* Once again: The language makes you cringe!
Al Reuters goes to any length to avoid using the word ‘terrorist’- and again, nobody signs hisÂ name to it:Â
Isnilon Hapilon, one of the heads of Abu Sayyaf, the Philippines’ fiercest militant group, and Umar Patek, believed to have planned the Indonesian resort island attack that killed more than 200, including 88 Australians, fled their camp on Jolo, 950km south of Manila.
Major Eugene Batara said three Abu Sayyaf rebels were captured and two M16 rifles seized in the raid, which is part of a long-running campaign to flush Islamic militants from Jolo, where they train and plot attacks across South-East Asia.
Maj Batara said US-trained troops were still combing areas around the camp.
Hapilon, who has a $US5 million ($6.12 million) bounty on his head from the US Government for kidnapping Americans, has emerged as one of Abu Sayyaf’s top strategists after troops killed the group’s top two leaders and more than 70 members in a campaign that started in August last year.
Umar Patek and suspected Bali accomplice Dulmatin, also an Indonesian, are sheltering with the Abu Sayyaf.
Abu Sayyaf is one of four Islamic rebel groups operating in the southern Philippines, where Muslims have fought for decades for independence from the largely Catholic nation.
But while other rebels have entered peace talks, Abu Sayyaf is involved in regular clashes with government troops, although its practice of kidnapping for ransom has fallen away in recent years.