Al Qaeda-Linked Group Targets Philippine City

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An al Qaeda-linked militant group attacked targets on the southern Philippine island of Basilan on Tuesday.

Abu Sayyaf militants set off explosives at a sports stadium, and a Roman Catholic church. The attacks occurred in the Christian city of Isabela.

"They had a big plan, a major attack that we foiled," Rear Adm. Alex Pama said.

"If they intended to carry out a Mumbai-style attack, then it backfired," Pama told The Associated Press, referring to the November 2008 attacks in Mumbai by 10 gunmen who stormed two luxury hotels, a Jewish center and a train station.

Philippine marines responded swiftly to the attacks. Three militants and three marines died in the ensuing gun battle.

"The marines did not know where the snipers were firing when they were ambushed and that led to the death of three marines," marine commandant Maj. Gen. Juancho Sabban told the Associated Press.

The Abu Sayyaf is one of several Muslim rebel groups fighting for an autonomous homeland on predominantly Muslim Basilan. The government has dismissed the Abu Sayyaf as a bandit group, that has been weakened by relentless U.S.-backed military offensives.

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