Sat, Aug 11, 2007 - Page 1 News List

Philippines says fighting on Jolo island left 57 dead


Clashes between troops and suspected al-Qaeda-linked militants have killed at least 57 people and wounded 42 on volatile southern Jolo island this week, the Philippine military said yesterday.

The death toll included 25 soldiers and 27 militants killed on Thursday when suspected Abu Sayyaf extremists ambushed a truck carrying troops headed to get supplies, then fought a running gunbattle with soldiers in pursuit, military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Bartolome Bacarro said.

"As far as I can remember, this is our biggest casualty in a day," Bacarro told reporters.

Ten soldiers and 25 militants were wounded in Thursday's clashes, he said.

Early on Thursday, the insurgents ambushed members of the army's 33rd Infantry Battalion who were on their way to get supplies in Indanan township, killing 10 soldiers and wounding another, Bacarro said.

Late in the afternoon, troops from the same battalion encountered about 120 Abu Sayyaf militants and rogue members of the Moro National Liberation Front, a rebel group that signed a peace agreement with the government 11 years ago, Bacarro said.

Heavy fighting broke out and running skirmishes, backed by four military attack helicopters, left 15 more soldiers dead and nine wounded.

"Based on validated intelligence reports, there were 27 killed on the ASG [Abu Sayyaf Group] side and 25 wounded," he said.

Major Eugene Batara, spokesman for the military's Western Mindanao Command in southern Zamboanga city, said soldiers recovered the bodies of five slain rebels, while the rest of the dead and wounded were carted away by their comrades.

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