Manila, Apr 5 : Philippine security forces clashed with Abu Sayyaf militants on Friday in southern Sulu province, killing at least seven and wounding 22 others, the military said. "Among the dead were three soldiers and four Abu Sayyaf militants while those wounded were 13 soldiers and nine Abu Sayyaf militants," the troops added.
The incident occurred barely two months after the government handed leadership of an autonomous region in the Philippine south to MILF, a former rebel group. A firefight erupted at around 1 a.m. in Madamba town, Lanao de Sur province when police attempted to serve arrest warrants against four men who were believed to be MILF members, Benar News quoted officials.
Colonel Gerry Besana, the spokesman of Western Mindanao Command, said the initial fighting lasted 30 minutes. The military then provided artillery support and fired mortars towards the positions of the Abu Sayyaf group, he said. Besana said the military attacks and bombardment forced the militants to withdraw with inflicted members, prompting the military to deploy more forces to track down the fleeing militants. Pursuit operations continued, the military official added.
Abu Sayyaf gained notice in the southern Philippines in the early 1990s, with demands for an Islamic state. It acquired worldwide notoriety with a series of kidnappings and beheadings, including foreigners. Philippine authorities referred to the Abu Sayyaf group as nothing more than a collection of bandits, whose main lair is in the Sulu province of the southern Philippines.
The Philippine government has formed an entire army division to hunt down the militants blamed for a series of kidnapping and bombings in the southern region, including the Jan. 27 twin bombings in a church in Jolo city, Sulu province that killed 23 and injured more than 100. (UNI )