(AA) — A Philippine soldier and a member of an al-Qaeda-linked militant group have been killed in a firefight in the troubled southern province of Sulu — a known Abu Sayyaf stronghold.
Capt. Rowena Muyuela, Western Mindanao Command spokesperson, told The Anadolu Agency in a text message Monday that another Abu Sayyaf member and four soldiers were also wounded when the clash broke out at around 4.00 p.m. (0800GMT) Sunday.
Authorities believe that the around 60 militants involved in the clash in Patikul hail from the Abu Sayyaf’s “Lucky 9” group, blamed for an ambush on government forces Friday that left two soldiers wounded in the same town.
Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc, army public affairs office chief, said Sunday’s clash started after a convoy carrying troops was “sprayed with bullets.”
“We have brave warriors who continuously fight the terrorists and criminals in the jungles of Sulu. Let us remember and pray for them too,” Philippine website GMA News quoted him as saying.
“The wounded soldiers are now in stable condition after being treated in a hospital,” Cabunoc added. “Pursuit operations have been ordered against the perpetrators.”
On Monday morning, soldiers captured an Abu Sayyaf camp with 42 structures that can accommodate about 100 persons in Patikul’s Laghub village, according to Ensign Chester Ian Ramos, public affairs officer of the region’s Joint Task Force Zambasulta.
Empty shells from several weapons were recovered from the site, along with combat fatigues and solar equipment.
Since 1991, the Abu Sayyaf — armed with mostly improvised explosive devices, mortars and automatic rifles — has carried out bombings, kidnappings, assassinations and extortion in a self-determined fight for an independent Islamic province in the Philippines.
It is notorious for beheading victims after ransoms have failed to be paid for their release.