Manila: Six members of an Al Qaida-linked Muslim extremist group were killed and three pro-government militiamen wounded as the army took over a militant lair but failed to find kidnap victims in the southern Philippines, authorities said on Monday.
The dead were members of the Abu Sayyaf Group — led by Sihata Latip and Abbraham Hammid — who encountered members of the Philippine marines in Mabahay village Talipao town, Jolo Island last Saturday, Colonel Jojo Cenabre, marine brigade head, said on Monday.
Three Abu Sayyaf members died during the clashes and three others perished as the Philippine Air Force, supporting the army, shelled the rebel camp, Cenabre said.
The six wounded pro-government civilian volunteers were rushed to a military hospital in Zamboanga City, said Cenabre.
From Sunday to Monday, government soldiers continued searching for bombs and documents that the Abu Sayyaf members left in their forest lair in Talipao, said Cenabre, adding that government soldiers also failed to locate the kidnap victims of the group.
The Abu Sayyaf Group is believed to be keeping more than 10 kidnap victims, including two European environmentalists and bird watchers who were kidnapped in 2013.
Comprising 300 armed fighters, Abu Sayyaf has been blamed for kidnap-for-ransom, beheadings, bombings and other terror activities in the south and also in Metro Manila.
Since early 2000, the Philippine government has allowed members of the United States armed forces to assist Philippine government soldiers with intelligence reports to track down members of the Abu Sayyaf Group in their heavily forested camps in the south.
The group has links with Jemaah Islamiyah, the Southeast Asian conduit of Al Qaida.