MANILA, Philippines – A top Indonesian terror suspect with a $10 million bounty on his head was wounded in an army commando raid on a southern Philippine island last week, an army official said Thursday.
Dulmatin, wanted for allegedly helping to plot the 2002 bombings that killed 202 people on the Indonesian resort island of Bali, was hit by gunfire when army special forces attacked Al Qaeda-linked rebels last week on Jolo island, army 1st Lt. Almirante Mijares said.
Mijares said he led the attack on the Abu Sayyaf camp, which housed about 60 guerrillas, after receiving an intelligence tip that Dulmatin, who uses one name like many Indonesians, and other wanted rebels were hiding in the forested area.
A Filipino guerrilla leader of the Abu Sayyaf rebel group, Abu Sulaiman, was killed during the Jan. 16 raid on Bud Daho mountain near Jolo's coastal town of Patikul.
"Dulmatin was also hit in that clash," Mijares said at a news conference where he and other army officers recounted details of the daytime assault. He did not elaborate.
"After the gunbattle, we only recovered the body of Abu Sulaiman," he said.
Sulaiman was believed to have been designated the new chief of Abu Sayyaf following the death of its previous head, Khadaffy Janjalani, in a September clash.
Washington has offered a $10 million reward for the capture or killing of Dulmatin.
Mijares said he and his men managed to get close to the fog-shrouded Abu Sayyaf encampment in the wilderness and then saw a militant, who turned out to be Sulaiman, walking toward the fringes to relieve himself in the bushes. His two bodyguards were watching close by.
A soldier pointed his M-14 rifle at Sulaiman and ordered him to keep quiet, but the militant shouted "Allahu akbar," or "God is great," apparently to warn his comrades of the raid. The soldier shot and killed him, and the gunfire set off the clash, Mijares said.
After more than an hour of fighting, most of the guerrillas fled, he said.
The killings of Sulaiman and Janjalani were a major victory for the Philippine military after years of frustrated U.S.-backed operations to find the two. The duo have been accused of plotting major terror attacks, including a 2004 bomb that ignited a fire aboard a ferry near Manila Bay, killing 116 people in one of the worst terror strikes in Southeast Asia.
The two had extensive contacts with foreign militants, including Indonesian and Middle Eastern financiers who provided funds and combat trainers, and their deaths were a major loss for the Abu Sayyaf, security officials said.
Military chief of staff Gen. Hermogenes Esperon said a massive U.S.-backed military offensive that started Aug. 1 on Jolo would focus next on getting Dulmatin and another Bali bombing suspect, Umar Patek.
President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo commended Mijares and other soldiers responsible for the killing of Janjalani and Sulaiman during a dinner Wednesday that was also attended by U.S. Undersecretary of State Karen Hughes.
Hughes also praised the troops for killing the Abu Sayyaf leaders.
She flew to Jolo with U.S. Ambassador Kristie Kenney on Thursday, where she inspected U.S.-funded school, road and computer projects.
"We are not engaged in combat operations," she told reporters, saying U.S. troops were on the island only to assist and advise their Filipino counterparts.
"We want to partner with the people of the Philippines in a way that ... helps them stop the terrorists from threatening peace and stability," she added.