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Philippines says notorious bomb-maker killed by rebels

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MANILA, Philippines (AP) — A Filipino bomb-maker who was one of the country's top terror suspects was killed by Muslim rebels who earlier signed a peace deal with the government, the Philippine military said Wednesday.

The U.S. government had offered a $1 million reward for the capture and prosecution of Abdul Basit Usman. The Philippine government had offered a separate reward of 6.3 million pesos ($141, 500).

Military spokesman Brig. Gen Joselito Kakilala said Moro Islamic Liberation Front guerrillas killed Usman after he strayed into their territory in southern Maguindanao province.

Military chief Gregorio Pio Catapang had said a day earlier that Usman was apparently killed in a shootout with his own men after infighting among his bodyguards. But Catapang said details were unclear and ordered an investigation.

"After receiving the detailed verbal report from our field units, we have confirmed that the (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) had indeed carried out the neutralization of Basit Usman," Kakilala said.

He said Usman resisted when the guerrillas accosted him, triggering a shootout. Usman's group strayed into the rebels' territory following military operations near the area days earlier, he added.

"We reiterate our message of appreciation" Kakilala said, thanking the rebels for "showing sincerity in collaborating with the government" in efforts against lawlessness and terrorism in the south.

Usman escaped a police commando strike in January that killed one of Southeast Asia's most wanted terror suspects, Malaysian Zulkifli bin Hir, known as Marwan, also in Maguindanao.

The 44 police casualties in that operation — the government's biggest single-day combat loss in recent memory — sparked public outrage. The deaths also stalled a peace deal signed last year with the Muslim rebels, some of whose fighters became entangled in the clashes that killed the police commandos.

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