MANILA (UPDATED) - Government forces clashed with suspected Abu Sayyaf terrorists in Inabanga, Bohol Tuesday, just two days after the US Embassy warned its citizens about "unsubstantiated yet credible" reports of kidnappings in Central Visayas.
The Philippine military said the suspects were "well armed with heavy caliber weapons" but are now "cornered in an isolated section of the sitio."
Philippine National Police chief Director General Ronald Dela Rosa confirmed one soldier was killed while another was wounded in action during the firefight in a mountain barangay in Inabanga Tuesday morning.
A report by ABS-CBN correspondent Chiara Zambrano said two soldiers have been killed in the clash, including an officer.
Sources also said 11 bodies of alleged Abu Sayyaf fighters were recovered as firefight continued.
Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen Eduardo Año said elements from the 47th Infantry Battalion, along with members of the Bohol Provincial Police Office(BPPO), the Regional Public Safety Battalion (RPSB) and the PIB, while acting on received intelligence information, encountered a group of heavily armed lawless elements at So Ilaya, Barangay Napo, Inabanga, Bohol.
"The security operation was launched in relation to the monitored presence of 10 armed men with 3 pumpboats along the riverside of So Ilaya, Brgy Napo in the area of Inabanga, Bohol. The information came from alert residents and other citizens who were watching over their respective communities," a statement from the Armed Forces said.
Additional forces from the Army, Air Force and the Navy are now onsite to assist engaged AFP personnel and law enforcers, the military said.
Inabanga Mayor Roygie Jumamoy said the clash is ongoing.
The clash occurred just two days after the US Embassy issued a travel advisory to its citizens, warning of possible kidnap threats in Central Visayas.
"The US Embassy has received unsubstantiated yet credible information that terrorist groups may attempt to conduct kidnappings in Central Visayas, which includes both Cebu and Bohol provinces," the embassy said in a statement posted on its website.
The Australian government issued a similar travel warning on Monday.
The PNP chief also noted that he received reports of kidnapping threats in the Central Visayas. "Huwag kayong matakot. I am giving assurance to the people na ang ating mga pulis sa Central Visayas ay ready," he said.
In a phone interview on Monday night, Inabanga Police Station Desk Officer, SPO1 Edwin Melicor, said a resident of Barangay Napo reported to police the presence of armed men on board a strange looking pump boat along the river.
An informant was sent to the area to verify the information. Barangay Napo is about 10 kilometers away from the highway.
When the information turned positive, soldiers and police were deployed to the area at 3 a.m. on Tuesday. With a report by Carine Asutilla-Lapid, ABS-CBN News