MANILA, Philippines (UPDATE) - At least 9 Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) members and 4 soldiers were killed in a firefight near Patikul, Sulu on Sunday, the military said.
At least 20 others were hurt in the clash that started early the morning and lasted until the afternoon, said Col. Orlando de Leon, commander of the 2nd Marine Brigade.
The Abu Sayyaf terrorists were reportedly holding hostages in the village of Bakong.
"That's based on the reports of local officials and residents, that nine died on their (Abu Sayyaf) side and more or less 20 were injured. The local officials and residents gave us names (of the dead Abu Sayyaf)," de Leon said.
Two of the slain suspects were identified as Sahiron Ajil and Ismim Sahiron. They are allegedly related to senior Abu Sayyaf leader Radullan Sahiron.
The military failed to recover bodies of the suspects because they were focused on extricating their own casualties, de Leon said.
"We have no body count (of the enemy casualties). It was a close-quarter battle and we (Marines and Abu Sayyaf) were separated only by a river," he added.
"Since we also had casualties, we evacuated our casualties instead of recovery enemy bodies. That was my priority, instead of recovery of (enemy) bodies," he said.
De Leon said at least 6 injured soldiers have been brought to a military hospital in Zamboanga City.