Five Filipino soldiers have been killed and 23 injured in a major ambush by Abu Sayyaf terrorists on Sulu Island.
The soldiers were searching for hostages taken by the Islamic State-affiliated terror group on Friday (November 16) when the gunmen attacked, army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Gerry Besana said.
“The effort is part of our mission to rescue the remaining hostages,” he added.
Abu Sayyaf is a loose alliance of several hundred terror gangs formed in the 1990s with seed money from Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda network.
Friday’s clash was one of the deadliest since an Abu Sayyaf faction joined other foreign and Filipino militants in seizing the southern Philippine city of Marawi last year, leading to a five-month seige that claimed more than 1,100 lives.
Abu Sayyaf is currently believed to hold fewer than ten hostages, Besana said.
The group primarily operates in the Muslim majority southern islands of the Philippines, but members have also taken to the sea to kidnap sailors in the waters between Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines.
The militants have also raided and taken hostages from resorts in the southern Philippines and Malaysia.
Most hostages have been ransomed off for huge amounts of money. However, several have been beheaded, including two Canadian tourists in 2016. A Dutch birdwatcher abducted on a nearby island in 2012 is believed to be among those still in Abu Sayyaf’s clutches.
The Dutchman’s Swiss companion managed to escape in 2014 by grabbing a kidnapper’s machete and hacking him to death.
The soldiers who survived Friday’s ambush did not see any hostages during the 90-minute clash near the town of Patikul, Besana said.
Meanwhile, another Abu Sayyaf faction released a hostage in Patikul Town on Friday.
Army spokesman Colonel Gerry Besana confirmed the release of Helen Roda, a businesswoman kidnapped in August in Zamboanga del Norte.
However, he said that no further details of her release were currently available.
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