MANILA (AFP) - The Philippine military said Monday its killing of a ruthless Abu Sayyaf commander had inflicted a major blow on the Al-Qaeda-linked group, as it pursued his fellow militants on a remote island. The military reported it shot dead six members of the militant network in the jungles of lawless Jolo Island on Sunday, with high-profile leader Albader Parad among the victims. It is a big blow in the sense that he (Parad) is a very notorious and ruthless leader, Lieutenant General Benjamin Dolorfino, head of military forces in the south, told AFP by telephone. He always played a big role as far as the effectiveness and capability of the group is concerned. Parad, who was believed to be in his late 20s, made world headlines last year when he led an Abu Sayyaf cell that kidnapped and threatened to behead three Red Cross workers on Jolo. The trio-a Filipino, a Swiss and an Italian-were released after many months. The Abu Sayyaf was set up in the 1990s with seed money from Osama bin Ladens Al-Qaeda network, according to the Philippine military, and has been blamed for the nations worst terrorist attacks. These include the bombing of a passenger ferry in Manila Bay in 2004, as well as many kidnappings of foreigners and Filipinos. The Abu Sayyaf is fighting for an independent Muslim state in the south of the mainly Roman Catholic Philippines, and is infamous for staging kidnappings-for-ransom to raise funds. Dolorfino said Sundays killings, which occurred after the military acted on tips from informants, gave hope the Abu Sayyaf could finally be crushed. Without the leaders, the members will be directionless and, if no new leader emerges, they may crumble, said Dolorfino. Dolorfino said the Abu Sayyaf was now believed to have only 330 fighters on Jolo, with another 61 on nearby Basilan island. This is down from a peak of about 1,200 fighters in 2002. He said the military was pursuing Abu Sayyaf members in the jungles of Jolo on Monday in a bid to capitalise on the previous days success, with Umbra Jumdail, one of the groups top two leaders, on its radar. The reported eroding of the Abu Sayyafs strength has coincided with US soldiers being stationed in the southern Philippines since late 2001 to help train local troops in how to battle the group. However, supported by sympathetic locals, the Abu Sayyaf has shown a persistent ability to conduct attacks and its militants have killed dozens of Filipino soldiers in recent years. A roadside bomb believed planted by the Abu Sayyaf also killed two US soldiers on Jolo in September last year. Even in Sundays clash, one Filipino soldier was shot dead, the military reported. And while welcoming the militarys success on Sunday, President Gloria Arroyos spokesman expressed caution about the longer-term implications. They say that when a leader dies, somebody immediately takes his place, press secretary Crispulo Icban told reporters. Nevertheless, Dolorfino insisted there were no signs of significant new Abu Sayyaf leaders emerging. We have not seen any new member who has the reputation of the current leaders. We have not seen any influential sub-leaders who might take the leadership when the current leaders are neutralised, he said. The US embassys spokeswoman in Manila, Rebecca Thompson, congratulated the Philippine military for Sundays success, saying this would improve security in the south. She said reports the US government had a five-million-dollar bounty on Parads head were incorrect, but no other details on that issue were immediately available.