Sulu clash toll rises to 14

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The confirmed death toll from fighting between soldiers and Abu Sayyaf rebels rose to 14 on Sunday as troops pursued the militants, a military spokesman said.

Soldiers pressed on with their hunt for the rebels a day after a bloody clash on the remote southern island of Jolo, said Brig. Gen. Domingo Tutaan.

Two more Abu Sayyaf fighters were found dead, adding to the five militants and seven Marines reported killed in the first day of fighting, he told Agence France-Presse.

“After the firefight, a scouring operation was conducted and a pursuit operation was launched,” he said, adding that was how they found the new fatalities.

The Marines were hunting down Abu Sayyaf members believed responsible for a spate of abductions of local residents including a marine’s wife when the clash broke out, Tutaan said.

Although there were no new clashes on Sunday, Tutaan said helicopter gunships were now on standby, ready to reinforce the troops if they should encounter the Abu Sayyaf again.

Malacañang also on Sunday extended its condolences to the families of soldiers killed in Sulu and promised to bring their perpetrators to justice.

In an interview, Palace deputy spokesman Abigail Valte said operations are ongoing to hunt down the Abu Sayyaf rebels responsible for the killing of the Marines. The government is also ready to provide the appropriate assistance for the bereaved families, according to Valte.

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