Four soldiers have been killed and 17 others wounded in a clash with about 40 suspected Abu Sayyaf rebels in a remote village in the Philippines’ Sulu province, a military spokesman said on Saturday.
Major Arvin Encinas of the Western Mindanao Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines said the 40-minute fighting broke out around 8:20 a.m. local time on Friday in a village near mountainous Patikul town, a known stronghold of the extremist group.
Encinas said two Abu Sayyaf bandits were also killed in the fighting.
The troops are maneuvering for an assault when they engaged with about 40 Abu Sayyaf terrorists, he added.
Abu Sayyaf is considered the smallest but one of the most violent extremist groups in the southern Philippines. The group, which has an estimated 400 fighters, is active in the impoverished island provinces of Sulu and Basilan.
The group is responsible for the series of kidnappings, deadly bombings, ambushes of security personnel, public beheadings, assassinations, and extortion in the Mindanao region.
The group, which has been terrorizing the Philippines’ southern region since the 1990s, preys on foreign tourists, businessmen and fishermen not only from the Philippines but also from Indonesia and Malaysia, hiding them in Philippine jungles or remote islands.