ZAMBOANGA: The Philippines’ military said on Thursday the death toll from an assault against al-Qaeda-linked Islamic militants had risen to 26, with one marine among the dead as troops cleared the combat area.
The latest fatalities on the southern island of Jolo bring to 33 the total number of Abu Sayyaf fighters killed in a month of operations against the group feared for its kidnapping raids.
Most of the deaths came on Tuesday amid fierce fighting after marines overran a camp on the heavily forested island the previous day. Dozens of militants and troops were also wounded.
Military spokeswoman Captain Rowena Muyuela said residents had reported additional casualties following the clashes.
“This operation is part of the continuing military action against the Abu Sayyaf to rid the province of their kidnapping activities,” she said.
The Abu Sayyaf camp on the fringes of the small Muslim-populated town of Patikul, 950 kilometers south of Manila, was seized by the military on Monday. Armed forces then used artillery and attack helicopters to target militants.
The camp had been used as a training ground for Abu Sayyaf recruits and as a launch pad for frequent kidnapping raids, said Muyuela, adding the military had found no sign of hostages at the site.
The Abu Sayyaf, formed in the 1990s with seed money from al-Qaeda mastermind Osama bin Laden, has been blamed for the worst terror attacks in Philippine history, including kidnappings of foreigners and locals who are then held for ransom.