Philippine troops clash with Abu Sayyaf rebels

Philippine troops clashed with Muslim militants in the country's south, leaving two guerrillas and a government militiaman dead, the military said Tuesday.

Regional military commander Col. Edgardo Gidaya said soldiers were on routine patrol Monday on Sacol island, across from Zamboanga city, 860 kilometers (530 miles) south of Manila, when fighting broke out with eight Abu Sayyaf rebels.

Two militants and a government militia member were killed, he said.

The al-Qaida-linked militants "have a long history of kidnapping and extortion in the area," Gidaya said, adding that troops were pursuing the rebels.

Abu Sayyaf guerrillas, hiding in the remote jungles of the southern Philippines, have targeted Filipinos and Americans in ransom kidnappings and bomb attacks.

The group, which numbers about 300, is on a U.S. list of terrorist organizations and Washington has offered rewards for information leading to the capture of its leaders.

Scores of militants already have been killed or arrested in U.S.-backed military operations.

Authorities suspected the Abu Sayyaf was behind an explosion that killed nine people on southern Jolo island last month as part of an extortion attempt, reports the AP.


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