Philippines readies final battle against al-Qaida

Philippine troops plan to intensify US-backed assaults on three southern provinces to finish off the al-Qaida-linked Abu Sayyaf rebel group and prevent it from retaliating with bomb attacks after the death of its top leader, the military chief said Sunday. The Philippine government announced on Saturday that the country's most-wanted terror suspect, Abu Sayyaf chieftain Khadaffy Janjalani, was killed in a clash with troops four months ago, citing results from DNA testing done in the United States. The announcement came four days after US-backed Philippine troops killed senior Abu Sayyaf commander Abu Sulaiman, one of Janjalani's possible successors. "The tempo of our offensives now would be faster and more ferocious," military chief of staff Gen. Hermogenes Esperon told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.