ZAMBOANGA CITY: Abu Sayyaf rebels carried out a fresh attack on a Marine outpost in Talipao, Sulu before dawn on Monday, killing two government soldiers and wounding another, military officials said.
The assault occurred at the post manned by the 22nd Marine Company, leading to a 15-minute firefight between government forces and the rebels.
There was no report of Abu Sayyaf casualties and officials would not say how and why the rebels managed to get so close to the marine post undetected, allowing them to launch the assault.
It was also unclear how many of the extremists stormed the post manned by about 20 Marines at the time.
Sulu is one of five provinces under the restive Autono- mous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
It was the second time in two weeks that rebels have assaulted the military in its own turf.
On December 15, dozens of Abu Sayyaf gunmen under Radulan Sahiron also attacked the base of the 32nd Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army in Patikul town, leaving at least seven soldiers wounded.
The latest assault came barely a week after the military claimed to have killed five Abu Sayyaf rebels under Commander Ninok Sapari in a clash in Barangay Liang, also in Patikul.
But village officials denied the military report and accused the marines of killing an innocent civilian they identified as Datu Kimar Amirul. They claimed Amirul was allegedly taken by the soldiers to guide them in Liang and was eventually killed in cold blood.
There was no immediate statement from the military about the extra-judicial killing of Amirul, but troops deployed in the province have been accused of human rights violations and extra-judicial killings of civilians suspected as rebels or sympathizers of the Abu Sayyaf in the past.
The military previously said that the operations against the Abu Sayyaf are continuing in the Muslim region.
An attack by a separate group of Muslim guerillas in the main southern island of Mindanao over Christmas left 10 civilians dead, according to the military.
Abu Sayyaf are holding two Canadian tourists and a Norwegian businessman abducted in the southern Philippines in September, along with a Dutch birdwatcher kidnapped in 2012, the Agence France-Presse have reported.
They are also widely believed to be holding an Italian pizza restaurant owner snatched in the region in October.
The decapitated head of a Malaysian, known to be kidnapped by the group in May, was found in Jolo last month.
Listed as a terrorist organization by the US State Department, the Abu Sayyaf are responsible for the worst terrorist attacks in the Philippines, including the bombing of a ferry off Manila Bay in 2004 that killed over 100 people.