7 dead in Sulu clash between Philippine troops, Abu Sayyaf

Reuters

Posted at Apr 06 2019 01:36 AM

MANILA - Three Philippine soldiers and four pro-Islamic State militants were killed, and a total of 22 wounded during a brief, but intense, firefight on a remote southern island on Friday, the military said.

Troops of the elite 5th Scout Ranger Battalion clashed with about 80 members of the Abu Sayyaf group in the town of Patikul in Sulu province, said Colonel Gerry Besana, spokesman for the military's Western Mindanao Command.

"The 30-minute fierce firefight resulted (in) four killed and nine wounded on the enemy side," he said.

The notorious Abu Sayyaf group has been known for extortion, kidnappings, beheadings and bombings, and has pledged allegiance to Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria.

The group in Patikul was believed to be led by Abu Sayyaf leader Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan, identified by security authorities as the mastermind in a church bombing in Sulu in January.

The bombing, which killed more than 20 people and wounded more than 100, including civilians and soldiers, was a suicide attack by an Indonesian couple helped by the Abu Sayyaf group, Philippine authorities have said.

Besana said 13 soldiers and nine militants were wounded during the latest clash in Patikul, where Philippine troops have been pursuing those behind the church attack.

The soldiers' injuries were mostly slight, from shrapnel, and they were now in stable condition, he added. But the whereabouts and condition of the injured militants were unknown.

Reuters could not immediately verify the military report.