Philippine army: Militant blamed for death of US soldier slain

The Philippine military said Saturday it had killed a senior commander of an Islamic militant group behind a 2002 bombing that claimed the life of a US Special Forces commando.

Abu Sayyaf group leader Alhabsy Misaya was killed in a military operation on Friday on the gunmen's southern island stronghold of Jolo, a military statement said.

"Troops from assigned Philippine Marine units killed the Abu Sayyaf extremist commander who is considered to be one of the most notorious kidnappers in (the) southern Philippines," it added.

Misaya's death could not be independently confirmed, and the military would not provide details of the operation.

The military statement said Misaya was behind the bombing of a restaurant in the southern Philippine port of Zamboanga in 2002 that killed US Sergeant Mark Jackson and wounded 23 other people including another American soldier.

The two Americans were at the time part of a small US Special Forces contingent deployed in the region to provide training as well as intelligence to Filipino troops fighting the Abu Sayyaf.

The US deployment was scaled down in 2014, with Washington concluding the 12-year programme had drastically reduced the capabilities of the group, designated by the US as a foreign terror organisation.

The Abu Sayyaf has since pledged allegiance to Islamic State fighters in Iraq and Syria and is blamed for deadly bombings as well as beheadings.

However, Filipino officials said the Abu Sayyaf is mainly driven by lucrative kidnappings of foreign tourists, businessmen, and shipping crews in the southern Philippines and nearby areas.

Misaya was also involved in other kidnappings and bombings, the Philippine military said.

Earlier this month the Philippine military foiled what it said was an Abu Sayyaf attempt to raid resorts on the central Philippine island of Bohol and kidnap up to a dozen tourists.

Ten of the boat-riding suspects were killed in gun battles with the Philippine securities including Abu Sayyaf spokesman Muammar Askali, but three others remain at large.

The authorities have also arrested a senior woman police officer and her suspected Abu Sayyaf boyfriend over an alleged plot to rescue the remaining gunmen on Bohol.