9 killed in new clashes between Philippine troops
Nine people have been killed in a new round of clashes between Philippine troops and militants of the outlawed group, Abu Sayyaf.
Officials said on Wednesday that at least nine people, including a soldier, were killed as the troops engaged about 100 Abu Sayyaf gunmen suspected of plotting attacks on New Year’s Eve.
Regional military spokesman Major Filemon Tan said the fighting which erupted earlier in the day in a hinterland village outside the town of Patikul in the predominantly Muslim province of Sulu was still continuing. He added that one soldier and seven more militants were wounded in the clashes.
Intelligence reports over the past weeks said the militants were planning to carry out bombings in the town of Jolo, Sulu, on New Year’s Eve. Attacks on police and military detachments were also planned, the reports had said, prompting the officials to stage preemptive measures.
The Abu Sayyaf militant group, which has been blamed for several kidnappings in the past, including of foreign tourists, is normally blamed for such unrest in the Philippines. Reports said the militants fighting in Patikul region were under direct orders of Abu Sayyaf’s notorious commander Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan.
Two major commanders of Abu Sayyaf expressed last year their support for the Daesh Takfiri terrorists based in Iraq and Syria. Abu Sayyaf itself, which is listed as terrorist by both the United States and the Philippines, was once regarded as an offshoot of al-Qaeda.