MANILA, July 13 (Xinhua) -- The Philippine military said on Thursday that they have recovered the body believed to be that of a Vietnamese crewman taken hostage by Abu Sayyaf militants in the southern Sulu province in February.
Brig. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, commander of the Task Force Sulu, said government troops found the body of the victim, Van Viet Tran, after a clash on Saturday with Abu Sayyaf bandits in a remote village in Patikul town, which resulted in the killing of a soldier and the wounding of 15.
Sobejana claimed four Abu Sayyaf extremists were also killed in the clash.
He said that Tran may have attempted to escape during the clash, prompting the bandits to shoot him.
Tran is reportedly among the six kidnapped Vietnamese crewmen of cargo ship MV Giant Hai that Abu Sayyaf hijacked in February off Tawi-Tawi.
"We discovered the body of the Vietnamese man when we were scouring the clash site. He sustained a gun shot wound," he said.
The military said the Abu Sayyaf group is still holding about 20 hostages.
Abu Sayyaf was set up in the early 1990s with money from al-Qaida group. It is one of the extremist groups in the Philippines that pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group, notorious for kidnapping for ransom, bombings and robberies in the southern Philippines.
The Abu Sayyaf bandits have hideouts in the remote impoverished provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.