Bid to rescue Jordanian in Philippines leaves 21 dead MNLF, Islamist rebels clash

MANILA, Feb 4, (Agencies): Twenty-one people have been killed in the Philippines during an apparently unsuccessful bid to rescue a Jordanian journalist kidnapped by Islamist rebels eight months ago, Philippine security officials said on Monday.
Members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), a group of former Muslim rebels who have made peace with the government, attacked jungle bases of the Abu Sayyaf group on Jolo island to free Jordanian Baker Atyani, said Antonio Freyra, a police chief in the area.
Atyani, a journalist working for the Al Arabiyah network, and his two Filipino television crew members were taken captive in June while reporting in the area.
“Based on our information, the MNLF lost eight members and the Abu Sayyaf suffered 13 casualties,” Freyra told reporters.
“We have no information on the fate of the Jordanian journalist,” he said.
Atyani’s two Filipino colleagues were freed on Saturday. Authorities said they could not say if ransom was paid for them.
An army spokesman, Colonel Arnulfo Burgos, said the military was not involved in the rescue bid but sent troops to help evacuate residents who fled from the area and to prevent the fighting from spreading.
About 60 families in the Patikul area were relocated temporarily because of the clash, he said.
Jolo island in the Philippine south is a stronghold for the Abu Sayyaf rebels who are notorious for kidnappings and some times killing captives.
The militants are also holding an Australian, one Swiss, one Dutch and one Japanese person on Jolo and nearby Basilan islands.
The Moro rebels battled the Abu Sayyaf with guns and knives at close range Sunday, Malik said, adding his group lost eight men, including one who was beheaded and a few others who were hacked to death.
Military and police officials in Sulu said up to 14 Abu Sayyaf men were killed, citing intelligence.
The fighting subsided Monday after Abu Sayyaf gunmen split into smaller groups, with a large group seen fleeing from Patikul to an adjacent ton. But the clashes could erupt again, Sulu provincial police chief Senior Superintendent Antonio Freyra said.
It was the first major bloody confrontation between the two insurgents groups, which have coexisted for years and at times were suspected of collaborating on kidnapping and backing each other in clashes against government troops in predominant Muslim Sulu.
Malik said his group had taken the initiative to seek the freedom of the hostages to help the government clean up the image of Sulu, where the Abu Sayyaf has carried out deadly bombings, kidnappings and beheading, primarily in the early 2000s.

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