• 16 soldiers wounded in clash with Sayyaf

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    ZAMBOANGA CITY: More than a dozen Philippine Army soldiers were wounded in intense battle with Abu Sayyaf rebels on Tuesday in southern Philippines, officials said.

    At least three rebels, according to the officials, were allegedly killed in the fighting that erupted in Pansul village in Patikul town, a known lair of the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu, one of 5 provinces under the Muslim autonomous region.

    At least 16 soldiers were wounded and all are members of the 32nd Infantry Battalion under Lt. Col. Ramon Flores, who fought about 200 gunmen.

    The fighting had lasted nearly two hours before the rebels managed to break into smaller groups and fled the military assault.

    The military launched simultaneous operations against the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu after rebels beheaded a kidnapped Canadian hostage, Robert Hall, recently.

    Officials provided no other or additional details of ongoing operations, citing military confidentiality, but the clash coincided with the capture of an Abu Sayyaf rebel–Usman Atalad alias Suhud Limaya–in Zamboanga City.

    Atalad, who belongs to an Abu Sayyaf faction in Basilan, also in the autonomous region, was selling fruits in downtown Zamboanga when policemen and Air Force soldiers arrested him.

    The rebel, who is facing a string of criminal charges, is being investigated by authorities in Zamboanga City before being sent back to the province to face charges in court against him.

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