- al Qaeda - Philippines - terrorism
AFP - Five soldiers were killed and 24 wounded in running battles with Al Qaeda-linked militants in the southern Philippines, the military said Monday.
Troops launched attacks against Abu Sayyaf militants on the southern islands of Basilan and Jolo Sunday and fighting was continuing early Monday, said Lieutenant Stephanie Cacho.
Cacho initially said 24 soldiers were killed but the military later rectified the toll to five dead and 24 wounded, citing confused reports from the field.
"There is still sporadic fighting today," Cacho, a spokeswoman for the military's Western Mindanao command, told AFP.
She said fighting on Basilan was concentrated in its interior jungle area where Muslim militants also beheaded 14 Marines in July last year.
"This operation is part of our campaign to flush out the Abu Sayyaf which is responsible for a series of kidnappings," Cacho said.
The Abu Sayyaf is a small gang of Islamic militants blamed for a string of high-profile kidnappings and attacks, including the 2004 firebombing of a ferry in Manila Bay that left more than 100 dead.