GOVERNMENT forces pounded with artillery a combined group of Abu Sayyaf bandits and Moro rebels, killing a terrorist leader and four others in Basilan, a police official said Saturday.

Basilan Police Director Antonio Mendoza said Puruji Indama, a known Abu Sayyaf leader, died after he was hit by shrapnel of 105-mm howitzers fired by the troops in an encounter that occurred around 9 a.m. Wednesday in the village of Baiwas, Sumisip town.

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Mendoza said a certain Nadzmir and three others who remained unidentified were killed on the spot when the troops pounded the combined Abu Sayyaf and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) “lost commands” with howitzers at the height of the firefight.

The troops are locating the remains of Indama, who faces a string of cases for his alleged involvement in several atrocities in Basilan, when the encounter happened.

Mendoza said Indama's death was learned through human intelligence gathered by the Army's 32nd Infantry Battalion and Basilan Police Provincial Office, as well as other sources.

He said the firefight erupted when joint forces from the Special Action Force of the police, Army's 32nd Infantry Battalion and 1st Marine Brigade launched an offensive in Baiwas village, Sumisip.

Policemen under the supervision of Mendoza were positioned as blocking forces in strategic locations while the troops were pounding the Abu Sayyaf bandits and MILF rebels in the village of Baiwas, Sumisip.

Elements from Maluso Police Station and 1520th Provincial Public Safety and Management Command (PPSMC) were positioned as blocking force in the village of Tubigan, Maluso, Mendoza said.

Elements from Lantawan Police Station and 1519th PPSMC were deployed as blocking forces in the village of Bañas, Lantawan town, he added.

The troops have focused their offensive in Sumisip after learning that the bandits are hiding in the hinterlands of the town.