MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) -- At least six soldiers were killed while seven others were wounded in a firefight with suspected Abu Sayyaf Group members in Patikul, Sulu Saturday morning.
Western Mindanao Command (Wesmincom) spokesperson Col. Rodrigo Gregorio said elements of the 3rd Marine Brigade were conducting operations in Barangay Tugas when they encountered alleged Abu Sayyaf terrorists at around 6:45 a.m.
Gregorio said troops of the 61st and 64th reconnaissance company conducted operations following the series of abduction incidents in Sulu.
The most recent victim, Criselda Marcos Villaraza, was a wife of a non-commissioned officer in Sulu. She was abducted last May 18.
As of 10 a.m., exchange of gunfire was still ongoing.
Some of the injured soldiers have already been airlifted and brought to Camp Navarro General Hospital in Zamboanga and another hospital in Jolo.
The military is still verifying reports that four members of the Abu Sayyaf were also killed in the firefight and that among them were Commander Karaan Sawadjaan and a certain Apong Idol. -- Report from Jewel Reyes, ABS-CBN News Zamboanga