Philippines Jihad Update: Note the casualty numbers — these are not the smaller, more routine skirmishes with jihadists. “Philippines: Troops clash with Islamist militants in south,” from Adnkronos International, December 8:
Zamboanga, 8 Dec. (AKI) – Security forces were fighting Islamist militants on two fronts in the southern Philippines on Monday, after 24 soldiers were killed and 16 others were wounded in conflict at the weekend. Soldiers fought battled militants from the separatist Abu Sayyaf where the government forces is trying to defeat the group blamed for a spate of deadly attacks that have left hundreds of people dead in the past 20 years.
Lt. Steffani Cacho, a spokesperson for the Philippines Western Mindanao Command headquarters, said conflict erupted early on Sunday between marines and militants in the town of Talipao in Sulu province.
An hour later, hostilities also broke out in the nearby province of Basilan.
Cacho said five soldiers were killed and 25 others were wounded in fighting in the town of Al-Barka in Basilan, where 14 soldiers had been beheaded early this year.
The injured included an air force pilot whose OV-10 light bomber was hit but a co-pilot managed to land it safely in nearby Zamboanga city, she said.
Fighting also was reported on nearby Jolo island, where an additional 11 troops were wounded, she said.
The Abu Sayyaf is one of several groups of Islamist militants based in the south of the country and is demanding the creation of an autonomous Muslim region.
Believed to be linked to Al-Qaeda, it has carried out a string of high-profile kidnappings and attacks, including the 2004 firebombing of a ferry in Manila Bay that killed more than 100 people.