MANILA, April 12 (Xinhua) -- A total of nine Abu Sayyaf militants have been killed and 19 others have been wounded in a series of clashes in the southern Philippine Sulu province, the military said on Friday.
The military said that the initial clash erupted at 10:37 a.m. local time on Thursday, when government security forces engaged about 120 Abu Sayyaf militants led by Abu Sayyaf leader Radulan Sahiron and sub-leader Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan in a remote village in Patikul, Sulu. The military said a militant was killed in the initial fighting.
The militants broke into smaller groups after the initial fighting in an attempt to escape from the pursuing troops, the military added.
Three other succeeding clashes occurred from 3:45 p.m. local time to 5:45 p.m. local time as the troops caught up with the fleeing militants, killing eight other militants and wounding 19 others, the military said.
Brig. Gen. Divino Rey Pabayo, the commander of the Joint Task Force Sulu, said the support and cooperation of the local community led to the success of the military operation.
Abu Sayyaf gained notice in the southern Philippines in the early 1990s. It acquired a worldwide notoriety with a series of kidnappings and beheadings.
Philippine authorities referred to the Abu Sayyaf group as nothing more than a collection of bandits.
The Philippine government has formed an entire army division to hunt down the militants blamed for a series of kidnapping and bombings in the southern region, including the twin bombings on Jan. 27 in a church in Jolo, Sulu, which killed 23 and injured more than 100.