At least 11 people have been killed in the Philippines as troops clashed with Islamic insurgents. Military sources said the group is to blame for several of the nations worst terror attacks.
Seven Filipino marines and at least four members of the Abu Sayyaf militant group were killed in the hour-long gun battle Saturday in the town of Patikul in Sulu province, 1,000 kilometers south of the capital, Manila, the nation's military reported.
A further nine soldiers were injured in the clashes and were airlifted to a military hospital. Reinforcement troops are now searching for fleeing militants.
"It was an early-morning firefight. Our forces were tracking those responsible for some recent kidnappings in the area, including the wife of a soldier," military spokesman Brigadier-General Domingo Tutaan told news agency AFP.
Alongside the kidnapping of the marine's wife last week, the group is accused of abducting two government men working on a road project in Patikul and several high-profile cases involving foreign hostages. Abu Sayyaf is thought to have been behind several terror attacks in the Philippines, including the firebombing of a ferry in Manila Bay.
Reportedly formed in the 1990s with al Qaeda funds, the group is on the US government's list of what it calls terrorist organizations. Although US-backed initiatives have weakened the group in recent years, it still poses a significant national security threat.
ccp/mz (AFP, dpa)