MANILA (UPDATE)- Eleven soldiers were killed while 14 others were wounded in a firefight between government troops and Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) gunmen in Patikul town, Sulu on Friday afternoon, the military said.
Government forces encountered the Islamic State-linked bandits in Barangay Danag around 3 p.m., according to the Armed Forces of the Philippines' Western Mindanao Command (Wesmincom).
The battle lasted about an hour before the ASG fled.
The bandits, numbering around 40, are reportedly under Abu Sayaff leaders Radullan Sahiron and Hatib Hadjan Sawadjaan. Sawadjaan is believed to be the acting "emir" or leader of the so-called Islamic State in the Philippines.
The military said they lost 6 R4 rifles, a K3 SAW machine gun, an R4 rifle with a grenade launcher, and a handheld radio in the encounter.
It is still unknown how many losses the ASG incurred in the
gunfight although the "combat troops inflicted enemy casualties based on the bloodstains found in the encounter site," Wesmincom said in a statement.
Wesmincom sent its condolence to the families of the killed soldiers.
"With the determination to ensure the safety and security of the community against the ASG, eleven soldiers paid the ultimate sacrifice in an hour-long ferocious gunfight with the terrorist group in Sulu today," it said in a statement.
"The Western Mindanao Command empathizes with the bereaved families of our fallen heroes who, with their intestinal fortitude, fought hard and braved the encounter against the Abu Sayyaf group."
Wesmincom said it will provide assistance to the soldiers' families.