World Bulletin / News Desk
The death toll from some of the fierce clashes between government troops and Abu Sayyaf rebels in recent months has reached 40, according to a local army spokesperson.
Captain Rowena Muyuela told the Anadolu Agency on Friday that 33 rebels and seven soldiers had died in bloody fighting on the island province in the Philippines' south, and dozens of others had been injured.
"A number of those wounded are in critical condition and have been airlifted to a military hospital in Zamboanga City," she added.
Fighting erupted between government forces and the Abu Sayyaf in Kagay village in Patikul town on Thursday morning, leaving seven marines, including an officer, dead and several others wounded.
Patikul is in the Abu Sayyaf hotbed of Sulu, about 587 miles (945 kilometers) of capital Manila.
Marine forces were also ambushed about 6:30 a.m. in Barangay Kagay, resulting in the death of an officer, she said.
Fighting continued as the marines called for reinforcements, but they also came under attack from another Abu Sayyaf faction headed by sub-leader Hairula Asbang from another position in nearby Buhanginan.
At least 10 Abu Sayyaf bandits were killed, with one body recovered and an undetermined number of others injured during the heavy firefight that lasted for more than an hour.
"The remaining troops are still in the area of operations while the casualties were evacuated," Muyuela said.
Authorities said Friday that the latest clashes had left hundreds of civilians, displaced.
The latest clashes come after the Abu Sayyaf suffered a series of setbacks including the capture in Manila last week of one of its leaders, Khair Mundos, who was on the U.S. government's list of "most wanted" suspects.
Last month, at least 25 Abu Sayyaf rebels were also killed in an encounter with marines who attempting to rescue kidnap victims held by the Abu Sayyaf kidnap for ransom group.
Several hostages including two European birdwatchers who were seized in Tawi-Tawi, two Chinese nationals abducted in Sabah, Malaysia, and German nationals who went missing in Palawan as well as Filipino workers are believed to be held by the Abu Sayyaf in the jungles of Sulu.
The Abu Sayyaf has been linked to al-Qaeda and is the most violent of the religious separatist groups operating in the southern Philippines.Last Mod: 20 Haziran 2014, 17:55