Four soldiers killed, 17 wounded in clash with rebels in southern Philippines

MANILA (XINHUA) – 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 yesterday.

Major Arvin Encinas of the Western Mindanao Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines said the 40-minute fighting broke out around 8.20am 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 were manoeuvering 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 terrorising 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 the Philippine jungles or remote islands.