Manila: At least seven members of the bandit Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) were killed in a clash with government soldiers on Wednesday in Sulu province, a Manila TV network reported.
Citing military sources, GMA channel's “Unang Balita” (Top News) reported Thursday that the firefight also left 18 soldiers wounded. The clash was reported to have taken place in Barangay Panglayahan in Patikul, a third-class municipality in Jolo, in the province of Sulu, with borders Malaysia.
One of the wounded soldiers was in critical condition, the report added.
Last Tuesday, the military said three ASG men were killed, while 10 other members were injured in a clash also in Patikul.
Sixteen soldiers were injured in the clash.
Also, last week, authorities nabbed a suspected ASG member identified as Adam Mahamdom, who was allegedly involved in the kidnapping of eight workers at Golden Harvest Plantation in Basilan in 2001.
Allegiance to Daesh
Meanwhile, militants who claim to be fighting for Daesh, the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) claimed to have chosen one of the most wanted men in the Philippines to head a regional faction of the ultra-radical group, security officials said on Thursday.
The claim was made in a video that was recently posted on social media, possibly last week, a military intelligence official in the Philippines told Reuters.
The video is significant, experts say, because it shows that Daesh supporters are now being asked to stay home and unify under one umbrella group to launch attacks in Southeast Asia, instead of being drawn to the fight in the Middle East.
Authorities in the region have been on heightened alert since Daesh claimed an attack in the Indonesian capital Jakarta in January which killed eight people, including four of the attackers.
In the 20-minute video seen by Reuters, young men and some children in military fatigues are shown carrying and training with weapons, and holding Islamic State flags. A section of the video showed some of these men engaging in gunbattles in jungles but it was not clear where and with whom.
The video also showed three men apparently being executed, but it was not clear where and who they were. The authenticity of the video and when it was taken could not be independently verified.
In the video, a man authorities in Malaysia have identified as Mohd Rafi Udin, a Malaysian militant currently in Syria, says in Malay: "If you cannot go to (Syria), join up and go to the Philippines."
In the video, Udin also urges Muslims to unite under the leadership of Abu Abdullah, a Philippine militant leader who pledged allegiance to Daesh in January.
Abu Abdullah, also known as Isnilon Hapilon, is a leader of the Philippine militant group Abu Sayyaf. He is on the FBI's most wanted list for his role in the kidnapping of 17 Filipinos and three Americans in 2001 and carries a bounty of $5 million.
The video was released to mark Daesh’s acceptance of allegiances from militants in southern Philippines, the first formal recognition of a Southeast Asian group, said Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay, chief of Malaysia's police counter-terrorism unit.