At least 11 soldiers were slain and over a dozen more wounded in fierce clashes Friday with pro-ISIS militants in Sulu province in southern Philippines, reports said.
Television giant GMA, which quoted Philippine military spokesman Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo, said as many as 14 soldiers were wounded in the fighting with the Abu Sayyaf group in the village of Danag in Patikul town amid the coronavirus pandemic.
It said the clashes erupted in the afternoon, but there was no immediate report from provincial military or police commanders and the Western Mindanao Command also did not issue any statement.
But other reports said the soldiers are members of the 21st Infantry Battalion and Scout Ranger, and among the dead was a lieutenant. News website Rappler reported that the soldiers lost seven R4 assault rifles, one grenade launcher and a K3 machine gun, including a radio transceiver to the Abu Sayyaf.
Security forces are battling the terrorist Abu Sayyaf group for the past 2 decades now and despite government efforts to lure them to surrender in exchange for livelihood and financial aid, its members continue to wage a violent campaign in the restive region.
Its leaders have pledged allegiance to ISIS or Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and vowed to put up a caliphate in Mindanao, one of the country’s three main islands largely populated by Christians, although the region was once under the powerful rule of the sultans. (Zamboanga Post)