Philippine troops clash with IS-linked militants after church attack | News | DW | 03.02.2019
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Philippine troops clash with IS-linked militants after church attack

At least five soldiers and three Abu Sayyaf militants were killed in the fighting as the military presses forward with a new offensive in the country's south. The clashes come after 22 people died in a cathedral bombing.

Philippine troops battled Islamist militants in a series of intense jungle clashes on Saturday after a bombing at a cathedral killed 22 people last weekend. The military said that five soldiers and three extremists were killed in the fighting.

In an attack claimed by the "Islamic State" (IS)-linked Abu Sayyaf, a pair of suicide bombers, reportedly husband and wife, detonated their explosives at the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Cathedral in the Sulu provincial capital of Jolo. On top of the fatalities, more than 100 people were wounded.

The Interior Ministry has said that the man and woman who carried out the bombing were Indonesian nationals. The government of Indonesia has said that it can not yet confirm this report.

The bombing has prompted renewed fears of terrorist attacks in the mostly Catholic country. Security has been ramped up across the Philippines, especially at churches, shopping malls, and other public spaces.

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President Rodrigo Duterte has vowed to wipe out Abu Sayyaf, an insurgency that has carried out bombings, kidnappings and assassinations in the Philippines since the early 1990s. It declared allegiance to IS when that group began occupying vast swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria.

The air force has begun to carry out strikes on suspected militant targets on the Muslim-majority island of Sulu, a longtime Abu Sayyaf stronghold.

Abu Sayyaf is believed to have between 300 and 400 members, down from a peak of 1,250 in 2000.

es/bw (AP, AFP)

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