At least five suspected Abu Sayyaf fighters were killed and two soldiers, including a junior military officer, wounded as security forces fought a group of Abu Sayyaf terrorists in southern Philippines before dawn on Wednesday, a local military commander said.

Lt. Col. Don Templonuevo, commander of the Army’s 44th Infantry Battalion, said a firefight broke out around 2:00 a.m. local time in a coastal village in Zamboanga Sibugay province as the forces tracked a group of terrorists.

Templonuevo said the early morning gun battle raged for 30 minutes, and the troops were sent to the area after villagers tipped off the presence of the armed men.

He added that government forces recovered four high-powered firearms after the 30-minute clash against the 10 Abu Sayyaf members.

Templonuevo said the bandits fled. “Pursuit operation is still on-going,” he said.

Brig. Gen. Leonel Nicolas, commander of the 102nd Infantry Brigade, said the terrorists were in the village to kidnap a trader.

“The pursuit operation has been ongoing to neutralize the remaining members still holed out in the mangrove area in the village. Two MG520 helicopter gunships provided air support to the ground forces,” Nicolas added.

The Abu Sayyaf Group, a loose band of about 200 violent terrorists, has carried out deadly bombings and a series of kidnappings in the remote and poor southern Philippine provinces of Sulu and Basilan.

Since 2009, the military said, the group carried out 47 bomb attacks in the provinces of Sulu, Basilan, and Zamboanga that left 83 civilians and soldiers dead, and 505 wounded.

The most recent Abu Sayyaf attack occurred on Aug. 24 when the group carried out dual suicide bombings in Jolo, Sulu that killed 15, including eight soldiers, and injured 74.

On Jan. 27, 2019, two bombs also rocked a cathedral in Jolo that left 23 killed and 95 injured.

The Abu Sayyaf Group preys on foreign tourists, business owners, and fisherfolks not only from the Philippines but also from Indonesia and Malaysia and hides them in Philippine jungles or remote islands.

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