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Philippines' Aquino Vows to 'Neutralize' Abu Sayyaf Kidnappers

Philippine President Benigno Aquino vowed Wednesday to launch a military assault aimed at "neutralizing" Islamic militants who beheaded a Canadian hostage and are holding more than 20 other foreigners.

"Casualties are to be expected. But what has to be of utmost importance is neutralizing the criminal activities of the ASG," Aquino said in a statement, referring to the Abu Sayyaf militant group by a commonly used acronym.

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Philippines Military Kills Four Extremists after Heavy Losses

Philippine soldiers killed four more militants as they pressed their offensive against the Abu Sayyaf after suffering heavy losses in weekend clashes in the troubled south, authorities said Monday.

Troops killed the four on the strife-torn island of Basilan on Sunday, a day after the guerrillas killed 18 soldiers in the worst fighting so far this year, regional military spokesman Major Filemon Tan said.

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Philippines Says Defense Strengthened under U.S. 'Rotational' Deal

The Philippines on Sunday hailed a new accord giving the U.S. military access to five of its bases, saying this would strengthen its defensive capabilities and maritime security.

The agreement between the two close allies comes as the Philippines and other countries are embroiled in a tense dispute with China over conflicting territorial claims in the South China Sea.

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Philippines Waits for U.N. Response on N. Korean Ship

The Philippine coastguard said it was closely watching a North Korean vessel and its 21 crew members Sunday, as officials waited for a response from the United Nations days after the ship was seized in compliance with new sanctions.

The 6,830-tonne cargo ship, the Jin Teng, is being held at Subic port, northeast of Manila, where the Philippine coastguard are guarding the freighter and monitoring its crew, said coastguard spokesman Commander Armand Balilo.

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Thousands Flee Deadly Fighting in Southern Philippines

At least six people have been killed and more than 20,000 displaced during a week of fighting between Islamic militants and security forces in the southern Philippines, authorities said Friday.

Three soldiers and three militants were confirmed killed in the clashes, which involved followers of a slain Indonesian leader of a Southeast Asian militant group, the military said.

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Philippine Muslim Rebel Tells Followers to Keep Ceasefire

The head of the Philippines' main Muslim rebel group on Thursday urged his followers to maintain a ceasefire with the government despite failure to pass a bill implementing a peace accord.

Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chairman Murad Ebrahim made the appeal in a statement carried on the group's Facebook page.

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Six Philippine Policemen Killed in Rebel Ambush

Six Philippine policemen were killed and eight injured in an ambush by communist rebels on a remote mountain highway on Tuesday, the military said.

Around 40 communist guerillas strafed a police convoy in Baggao, a poor farming town in the northeast of the main island of Luzon, sparking a brief firefight, said a regional military spokesman.

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Cliffhanger Philippine Presidential Election Race Begins

A cliffhanger race to lead the Philippines began Tuesday with emotion-charged rallies by a dead movie star's adopted daughter, a politician who brags about killing criminals and other top contenders.

The three-month election campaign got under way with four aspirants standing a genuine chance of succeeding popular President Benigno Aquino, who is limited by the constitution to a single term.

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Philippine Mayor Shot in Pre-Election Ambush

A Philippine town mayor was shot and wounded in an ambush in the conflict-wracked south on Sunday, two days before the official campaign for general elections in May kick off, police said.

A gunman riding a motorcycle opened fire on Mayor Jasper Que as he drove with his two bodyguards in the port city of Zamboanga at around 9 am, city police spokeswoman Senior Inspector Helen Galvez told AFP.

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Philippines' Raucous Election Season Gets underway

The Philippines' raucous democracy cranks into top gear this week as campaigning begins for national elections, with familiar themes of corruption, dictatorship and celebrity star-power to dominate.

The three-month campaign launches Tuesday with most interest on a crowded contest to succeed President Benigno Aquino, who has won global applause for six years of strong economic growth and a bruising anti-graft campaign.

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