MANILA: Abu Sayyaf militants killed two soldiers who went to market but reinforcement troops retaliated with an assault that may have killed an unspecified number of the attackers in the southern Philippines, a military official said Monday.
About 10 heavily armed militants opened fire on the soldiers on Sunday and stole one of their motorcycles before fleeing into the jungle in Sulu province.
The victims were in civilian clothes and had pistols but were died before they could return fire, Sulu’s military commander, Brig. Gen Alan Arrojado, said.
Army troops later caught up with the attackers and engaged them in a brief gunbattle that may have killed some of the militants, Arrojado said.
The attackers belonged to an Abu Sayyaf faction led by Moammar Askali, according to a military report.
Askali’s group reportedly received a huge ransom in exchange for freeing two kidnapped German tourists in October, allowing the militants to acquire new weapons.
The Abu Sayyaf is blacklisted by the United States as a terrorist organization, but has lost its key commanders, causing the group of mostly poor peasants to descend into a path of violence and criminality.