Troops pursue Sayyaf in Sulu

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ZAMBOANGA CITY: Security forces were pursuing a large group of Abu Sayyaf rebels in the southern Philippines following a deadly clash that left at least seven people dead in Sulu province.

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Officials said four army soldiers and three Abu Sayyaf gunmen were killed in fierce clashes on Friday in Patikul town. They said that nine other soldiers were injured in the fighting that erupted in the village of Buhanginan.

Troops engaged some 150 rebels under Radulan Sahiron, according to army Major Filemon Tan, a spokesman for the Western Mindanao Command. He said there could be many casualties on the Abu Sayyaf but soldiers recovered only three bodies.

Tan said the army fired several rounds of 105mm Howitzer on suspected Abu Sayyaf positions in the town.

The fighting lasted over 45 minutes, but it was not immediately known whether the elusive Abu Sayyaf leader was wounded or killed in the fighting. The bodies of the rebels were recovered by soldiers.

“Despite the casualties incurred, the military continues to conduct combat operations against the ASG [Abu Sayyaf] to destroy the bandits, rescue the kidnap victims and deter terror attacks perpetrated by the bandit group in the province of Sulu and possibly in other provinces as well,” Tan said.

The Abu Sayyaf is still holding more than a dozen Malaysian and Indonesian sailors kidnapped in Sabah, Malaysia, including an elderly German boater.

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