Islamic extremists in the southern Philippines ambushed a military convoy Wednesday by planting a landmine that killed three soldiers, the latest outbreak of violence as the government cracks down on the militants.
The military convoy of three vehicles was traveling on the southern island of Jolo to secure a road project when a truck hit the landmine.
Fighters from the Al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf group then ambushed the surviving soldiers, according to military spokesperson Col. Restituto Padilla.
Three soldiers were killed while six others were wounded, he said.
A two-hour gunbattle ensued but there were no reports of Abu Sayyaf casualties.
“The Abu Sayyaf are the ones behind it. They struck back against us,” Padilla said.
He said the attack was in retaliation for a military offensive launched against the group in their Jolo strongholds last week which killed 24 militants.
“We have had successes but we have also had losses,” Padilla said.
Founded in the 1990s with seed money from Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda network, the Abu Sayyaf gained international notoriety for the worst terror attacks in Philippine history including bombings and kidnapping Christians and foreigners for ransom.
They are believed to be currently holding at least seven hostages, according to the military.
The hefty ransom payments enable the group to fund attacks and replenish their forces from impoverished Muslim communities in southern regions of the largely Catholic Philippines.
The group was also blamed for the worst terror attack in the country, the 2004 firebombing of a ferry off Manila Bay that killed more than 100 people.
Despite receiving training assistance from the United States, the Philippines has struggled to contain the Abu Sayyaf, whose leader last year pledged allegiance to the Islamic State movement.