Manila (AsiaNews/Agencies) - The Philippine president, encouraged by the killing of senior Abu Sayyaf leader Abu Sulaiman, vowed on Thursday to finish off the Islamic militants "with a hand of steel" and US assistance.
Sulaiman, 41, whose real name is Jainal Antel Sali Jr, left a legacy of lethal attacks and kidnappings, putting him on US and Philippine most-wanted lists.
After years of tracking Sulaiman, US-backed Philippine troops cornered him and other rebel leaders on Tuesday in a Jolo island jungle hide-out about 950 kilometres south of Manila. He died in the ensuing gunbattle, military officials said.
"We are resolved to work with our strategic allies in the region and with the United States to tighten the dragnet and stop the movement of terrorists, their finances and their deadly material across the seas and borders," President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo said in a statement.
US troops and military advisers in the southern Philippines have provided training and intelligence for the four-month-long offensive. The US had offered up to US million (HK.9 million) for Sulaiman's capture or killing.
Sulaiman had claimed responsibility for a 2004 bombing aboard a ferry in the Philippines. The blast and resulting fire killed 116 people in Southeast Asia's second-worst terror attack.
But he was perhaps best known in the US for plotting the kidnapping of American and Filipino tourists from a resort on the southeastern island of Palawan in 2001.