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Terror chief killed in Philippines

South-east Asia's most-wanted terrorist and two other senior militants have been killed in a US-backed air strike in the Philippines, military chiefs said.

Filipino troops did not immediately recover bodies after the dawn strike on a militant stronghold on a southern island, but military spokesman Colonel Marcelo Burgos said the dead included Malaysian Zulkifi bin Hir, also known as Marwan, a top leader of the regional, al Qaida-linked Jemaah Islamiyah terror network.

Also killed in the strike were the leader of the Philippines-based Abu Sayyaf militants, Umbra Jumdail, and a Singaporean leader in Jemaah Islamiyah, Abdullah Ali, who used the guerrilla name Muawiyah, Col Burgos said.

Forensic investigators could not immediately approach the heavily forested mountain camp hit in the strike because the area remains under the control of another rebel group, Moro National Liberation Front, which signed a peace pact with the government in 1996, said regional military commander Major General Noel Coballes.

He said no one was captured after the air strike and that some militants escaped and then returned to retrieve the bodies of those who died. It is unclear if they also recovered the bodies of the three leaders, he said.

About 30 militants were in the camp near Parang town on Jolo Island, the stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf and their allies from the mostly Indonesian-based Jemaah Islamiyah, when it was bombarded by two OV10 aircraft, Maj Gen Coballes said.

"Our report is there were at least 15 killed, including their three leadership," he said. "This is a deliberate, fully planned attack coming from our forces."

The US had offered a five million dollar (£3.2 million) reward for the capture of Marwan, a US-trained engineer accused of involvement in a number of deadly bombings in the Philippines and in the training of new militants.

American counter-terrorism troops have helped ill-equipped Filipino troops track Marwan for years using satellite and drone surveillance. About 600 US special forces troops have been deployed in the southern Philippines since 2002, providing a crucial support for the Philippines' counter-terrorism operations.

If confirmed, Marwan's death would mark the most important success against regional terror network Jemaah Islamiyah since the January 2011 arrest of Indonesian suspect Umar Patek in Pakistan's garrison town of Abbottabad, where Osama bin Laden was killed in a US commando attack four months later.

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