Two more members of the terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) were killed and three others were wounded in renewed clashes with government troops in Sulu on Wednesday.
A soldier was also wounded in the encounter.
The slain Abu Sayyaf fighters were reportedly followers of Alhabsy Misaya, one of the group’s sub-leaders tagged as behind ransom kidnappings in Sabah, Malaysia.
The soldier, whose name was withheld pending notification of his family, was slightly wounded.
Major Filemon Tan, spokesman for the Western Mindanao Command, said soldiers from the 35th and 10th Infantry Battalions clashed with about 30 jihadists in the village of Pugad Manaul in Panamao, Sulu on Wednesday morning.
It was not known whether Misaya was fighting alongside the slain bandits.
Misaya’s group, the military said, is holding Malaysian and Indonesian hostages.
Tan said Air Force planes provided support to ground troops who were fighting the terrorist group that is being linked by authorities to the Islamic State.
The fighting came a day after suspected Abu Sayyaf gunmen snatched a Malaysian fisherman in Sabah whose abduction Malaysian authorities have confirmed.
It was said that the gunmen sped off in a boat that headed to Tawi-Tawi.
Brig. Gen. Arnel dela Vega, commander of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Joint Task Force Sulu, said the first encounter happened at about 7:02 a.m., and the second at 9:05 a.m. in the adjacent sitio.
The three jihadists wounded in the second clash were seen being carried by the retreating bandits.
“Troops recovered one body while another was carried by the ASG as seen by pursuing troops and revealed by civilians,” de la Vega said.
He attributed the success of the engagements to the cooperation of local residents.
“Our troops will continue to pursue the terrorists until we deal a crippling blow to their ranks and leadership and rescue the remaining hostages,” dela Vega said.
On Tuesday, Army troops also killed two notorious Abu Sayyaf members – the brothers Nixon and Brown Muktadil – tagged as behind cross-border kidnappings in the rich Malaysian state of Sabah.
Security forces raided the brothers’ hideout in Tambulian Island off Sulu’s Pata town where they were killed.
The two, authorities said, were behind the kidnappings of at least 26 Indonesian and Malaysian crew of slow-moving tugboats in Sabah near Tawi-Tawi province.
The military said the killing of the Muktadil brothers was a big blow to the Abu Sayyaf because the duo served as guides and navigators in its kidnapping activities in Sabah.