Abu Sayyaf fighters ambushed soldiers in Sulu province last week in a possible bid to divert the attention of government forces battling terrorists in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur, the military chief said Saturday.
"Alam naman natin na 'yung nangyari sa Marawi ngayon, isang malaking insidente o event na nire-resolve natin. Iyung naganap na ambush ay isang maaaring diversionary tactic ng Abu Sayyaf in support doon sa mga nag-atake dito sa Marawi," Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Eduardo Año told reporters.
(We know that what occurred in Marawi is a major incident we are resolving. The Sulu ambush may have been a diversionary tactic of the Abu Sayyaf in support of the Marawi attackers.)
A soldier was killed and 10 of his colleagues were injured after a group of 10 to 15 bandits ambushed them in Patikul, Sulu on Thursday morning.
The ambush came as state troops hunted down Maute and Abu Sayyaf fighters in Marawi, who laid siege to Marawi City starting last Tuesday.
The Marawi skirmishes prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to place the entire Mindanao island under martial law.
The military has since launched surgical airstrikes in a bid to crush the rebels in Marawi.
The Joint Task Force Sulu, meanwhile, has been conducting pursuit operations against the ambush suspects.