Fifteen Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) members, including three Al Qaeda-linked top leaders, were killed when military planes carried out an air strike on the bandits’ lair in Parang, Sulu, Thursday morning, military officials said.

Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan, a Malaysian bomb expert of the Al Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiyah. (photo courtesy of AFP Public Affairs Office)

Among those killed were Abu Sayyaf sub-commander Abu Jumdail alias Dr. Abu and JI operatives Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan and Muhammad Ali bin Abd Al-Rahman alias Muawiyah, Maj. Gen. Noel Coballes, Armed Forces Western Mindanao Command chief, told reporters in a phone interview.

“This is a deliberate, fully-planned attack coming from our forces,” Coballes said. “That will have a very big impact on the capability of the terrorists.”

Colonel Arnulfo Burgos, Armed Forces spokesman, said OV-10 military planes dropped bombs at the bandits’ lair in Brgy. Duyan Kabao around 3 a.m. before troops were sent in.

“There was no more resistance when the troops arrived,” Burgos said in a briefing.

Two OV-10 planes dropped four bombs, with three sucessfully exploding, according to a report from the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao police office.

Gumbahali Umbra Jumdail alias Dr. Abu, one of the Abu Sayyaf's top leaders in Sulu. (Photo courtesy of AFP Public Affairs Office)

US troops based in Mindanao “provided technical assistance in the operation,” Lt. Col. Randolph Cabangbang, AFP Westmincom spokesman, said in a phone interview. He declined to elaborate.

“Marwan,” a Malaysian bomb expert, faces charges of multiple murder, multiple frustrated murder, and multiple attempted murder. The government put up a P7.4 million reward for his capture while the US State Department offered a $5 million bounty.

“Muawiyah,” a Singaporean who once served as a military official with the rank of major, was also an operative of the JI and had a $50,000 bounty.

Jumdail, on the other hand, is wanted for 21 counts of kidnapping and serious illegal detention for the May 27, 2001 kidnapping at the Dos Palmas Resort in Palawan, where several tourists, including three Americans, were seized.

The three Americans comprise Guillermo Sobero and missionary couple Martin and Gracia Burnham. Sobero was beheaded the same year while Martin Burnham got killed when their captors clashed with troops during a rescue operation in June 2002.

The government put up a P7.4 million reward for Jumdail’s capture while the US State Department offered a $140,000 bounty.

On October 30 last year, military planes bombed an Abu Sayyaf and JI lair in Brgy. Karawan, Indanan, with the aim of getting Marwan, Mauwiyah, and Jumdail.

Three bandits were killed but the top leaders were nowhere to be found after the assault.

In July the same year, Marines stormed an Abu Sayyaf lair in Patikul also with the aim of getting Abu Sayyaf leaders but ended up losing seven soldiers, of whom two were beheaded. (John Roson)

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