A Filipino Muslim girl and her sister joins a rally at the Mendiola bridge leading to the Malacanang presidential palace in Manila to call for support to a recently-signed peace agreement between the government and the largest Muslim rebel group in the country. (AP)
Heavy clashes have broken out between Philippine troops and Muslim militants trying to regain control of a captured camp in southern Sulu province, leaving 14 Abu Sayyaf rebels and one marine dead, officials said on Wednesday.
Military spokesman Lt. Col Ramon Zagala said fighting that began late Tuesday continued until early morning Wednesday, with the militants attempting to regain control of an Abu Sayyaf training and storage camp and in Patikul township that was captured by government troops.
Marine spokesman Capt. Ryan Lacuesta, citing intelligence reports, said the clashes left 14 rebels dead, while one marine was killed and 19 were wounded.
Zagala says troops are securing the rebel camp they captured on Monday. Militants from the group of Abu Sayyaf leader Radullan Sahiron are expected to launch more attacks and the military will continue to use mortars, howitzers and attack helicopters to protect it troops there, he said.
The Abu Sayyaf had links to international militant networks, including al-Qaida, but a U.S.-backed Philippine military crackdown has weakened it considerably in recent years. The group, which is on the U.S. list of terror groups, has about 300 fighters and is now much more focused on ransom kidnappings than global jihad.