MANILA » Officials say heavy clashes have broken out between Philippine troops and Muslim militants trying to regain control of their captured camp in southern Sulu province, leaving 14 Abu Sayyaf rebels and one marine dead.
Military spokesman Lt. Col Ramon Zagala said fighting that began late Tuesday continued until early morning Wednesday, with the militants attempting to regain control of an Abu Sayyaf training camp and storage facility in Patikul township that was captured by government troops.
Marine spokesman Capt. Ryan Lacuesta, citing intelligence reports, says the fighting left 14 rebels dead, while one marine was killed and 19 wounded. The Abu Sayyaf had links to international militant networks, including al-Qaida, but a U.S.-backed Philippine military crackdown has weakened it considerably in recent years. The group, which is on the U.S. list of terror groups, has about 300 fighters and is now much more focused on ransom kidnappings than global jihad.