MANILA, Philippines — Abu Sayyaf fighters killed six soldiers and wounded four others in a clash in Sumisip, Basilan this week, the military said.
“We were going after the Abu Sayyaf elements who continue to exist in Basilan and up to this time, there have been skirmishes reported to us, specifically this morning,” Armed Forces spokesman Major General Restituto Padilla told news channel ANC Friday.
The military has shifted its operations to Basilan after ending the five-month combat operations against extremists in Marawi City following the deaths the militants’ top leaders, including Isnilon Hapilon, the Abu Sayyaf commander who had been named “emir” of pro-Islamic State groups in Southeast Asia.
Ten soldiers were wounded in the Basilan clash, but six died on the way to a medical facility on Wednesday evening after troops searching for Abu Sayyaf sub-commander Furiji Indama clashed with gunmen in Sumisip town, Padilla said.
Two army battalions were sent to reinforce soldiers who were took heavy gunfire from well-entrenched militants, Western Mindanao Command spokeswoman Captain Jo-Ann Petinglay told reporters, adding two attack helicopters also provided close air support.
An undetermined number of militants were killed or wounded in the four-hour battle, Petinglay said. “We will continue to chase the Abu Sayyaf and finish them off,” she added.
The presence of pro-Islamic State militants is among the top internal security threats for the country and the Marawi siege raised alarms that the southern Philippines is fast becoming an Asian hub for the ultra-radical group.