Jul 11, 2016
This photo taken on June 1, 2016 shows Philippine soldiers on patrol during an operation against Daesh-linked militants at a remote village in Butig town, Lanao del Sur province. (AFP photo)
The Philippine army has killed at least 40 members of the Daesh-affiliated Abu Sayyaf militant group and injured 25 others in the country’s volatile south, a military official says.
According to regional military spokesman, Major Filemon Tan, who was speaking on Monday, the casualties occurred in two battlefronts in the country’s southern islands in the first major counter-terrorism operation under the new Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte which started last week.
He said 22 militants were killed and 16 others sustained injuries in the assaults that began in the jungles of Sulu islands, located about 590 miles (950 kilometers) south of the Philippine capital of Manila.
Tan added that 18 Abu Sayyaf militants were killed and nine others wounded in a simultaneous offensive on the nearby island of Basilan.
One Philippine soldier was reportedly killed in the fighting in Sulu.
This undated image grab taken on October 13, 2015 from a video uploaded on YouTube shows gunmen standing behind three foreign men (not pictured) who were kidnapped in the southern Philippines. (AFP photo)
Abu Sayyaf, quite well-known for its kidnappings, beheadings and deadly bombings, was founded in 1991 on southern Basilan island with a pledge to wage a war against the government.
Abu Sayyaf members are in constant clashes with the Philippine forces across the troubled region.
The Takfiri group lost major commanders at the beginning of its fight and was gradually split into factions with a few hundred militants. The group continues to survive on ransom and extortion.
The Philippine president, who started his six-year term on June 30, has warned the Abu Sayyaf to stop the wave of ransom kidnappings.
Officials say Abu Sayyaf is still holding some 14 foreign hostages, including one Dutch, one Norwegian, five Filipinos and seven Indonesians.
In October 2014, the militant group claimed it received USD 5.3 million in exchange for two German hostages they held captive for six months.
Last year, two major commanders of Abu Sayyaf expressed their support for the Daesh Takfiri terrorists mainly operating in Iraq and Syria.
Abu Sayyaf was once regarded as an offshoot of al-Qaeda.