Suspected Abu Sayyaf guerrilla shot dead in Philippines

ZAMBOANGA, Philippines (AP) - A suspected member of the Muslim extremist Abu Sayyaf group was fatally shot after he grabbed a soldier's rifle and tried to escape following his capture, officials said Friday. 

Mauran Ampol was captured Wednesday on the outskirts of Isabela city on the southern island of Basilan, said Col. Bonifacio Ramos, Basilan's military chief. 

As he was being put on a military truck Thursday, Ampol grabbed a rifle of one of his escorts and tried to escape, but another soldier shot him dead, Ramos said. 

Ramos described Ampol as a trusted lieutenant of Hamsiraji Sali, one of five top Abu Sayyaf leaders wanted by the U.S. government for the 2001 kidnappings of three Americans from a beach resort southwest of Manila. 

Ampol also was allegedly involved in the earlier abduction of another American, Jeffrey Schilling, and a string of other kidnappings and murder cases, Ramos said. 

He was taken in by soldiers following a clash Wednesday in which he suffered a leg wound. 

In nearby Zamboanga city, troops manning a checkpoint captured another suspected Abu Sayyaf member, Muras Kangal, army spokesman Lt. Col. Joselito Kakilala said. 

Kangal was allegedly involved in several incidents of sea hijacking, piracy, kidnapping and drug trafficking, Kakilala said. 

The Abu Sayyaf has been linked to al-Qaida and is on the U.S. list of foreign terrorist organizations. 

A six-month U.S.-Philippine counterterrorism exercise on Basilan island last year has been credited with breaking up the extremist group and killing and capturing of some of its leaders and members. 

U.S. and Philippine defense officials are planning a new round of exercises this year designed to wipe out remnants of the group believed to have fled farther south to Jolo island. 

In May 2001, the guerrillas snatched 20 people from a posh resort southwest of Manila, including Americans Martin and Gracia Burnham and Guillermo Sobero. 

Of the Americans, only Gracia Burnham survived, rescued in July last year. 

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has given the military a three-month deadline ending this month to wipe out the Abu Sayyaf. 

Although the group remains active, Arroyo claimed Thursday "the Abu Sayyaf is a greatly diminished threat.'' - AP 

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