MANILA (AFP) – Two members of an Al-Qaeda-linked group were killed in clashes with troops in the southern Philippines on Sunday, a military spokeswoman said.
Three soldiers and two militants were wounded in the fighting that erupted before dawn in the jungles of Basilan Island, Captain Rowena Muyuela told AFP.
Sunday’s encounter was part of continuing offensives to dislodge Abu Sayyaf extremists from the island, she said.
The Abu Sayyaf, set up with seed money from Al-Qaeda in the early 1990s, has been blamed for many of the deadliest militant attacks in the Philippines, including the 2004 firebombing of a ferry on Manila Bay that claimed more than 100 lives.
The group, mainly based in Muslim-populated areas of the south, has also been involved in high-profile kidnappings of foreign tourists and Christian missionaries.
In a separate operation elsewhere in the south, 44 police commandos were killed in clashes with other Muslim guerrilla groups last month. They were on a mission to catch two top militants, Malaysian Zulkifli bin Hir and Filipino Abdul Basit Usman.
The FBI has said DNA analysis indicates Zulkifli was probably killed.