ZAMBOANGA CITY: Twelve people were killed in Sulu early Saturday as troops clashed with the Abu Sayyaf, a militant group blamed for the country’s deadliest terror attacks, the military said.
Reports from the province said Abu Sayyaf rebels ambushed patrolling soldiers in the town of Patikul, who were then tracking the militant group following a recent kidnapping in the area.
The battle left seven Marines dead and nine others wounded, said Col. Jose Cenabre, a local military commander.
Five Abu Sayyaf members were also killed, military spokesman Brig. Gen. Domingo Tutaan told Agence France-Presse in Manila.
“It was an early-morning firefight. Our forces were tracking those responsible for some recent kidnappings in the area, including the wife of a soldier,” Tutaan added.
Casualties and injuries involving military officers and civilians have yet to be confirmed.
Founded using seed money from Al-Qaeda in the 1990s, the Abu Sayyaf is blamed for the worst terror attacks in the country, including the fire-bombing of a ferry in Manila Bay and kidnappings of foreign tourists especially in Sulu, which is one of the five provinces under the Muslim autonomous region.