A day-long fighting between Philippine government forces and rebel group of Abu Sayyaf in Southern Philippine province of Basilan has left at least 12 dead and scores of others wounded, military said on Saturday.
Captain Jefferson Mamauag, spokesman for the Philippine Army's 1st Infantry Division, said two soldiers and 10 Abu Sayyaf members have perished in the skirmishes, which erupted 2:30 a.m. Friday and ended 6:30 p.m. same day at the boundary of Tipo-tipo and Unkaya Pukan towns.
Citing information from ground units, Mamauag said seven of the slain terrorists came from the side of Abu Sayyaf leader Furuji Indama. The three others, he said, were from the group of Abu Sayyaf sub-leader Hamsa Zapanton.
On the government side, Mamauag said there were two soldiers confirmed killed and 29 others injured. He said the injuries of the wounded troops were only minor.
"The fighting ended 6:30 p.m. and they (Abu Sayyaf) recovered their dead. It's a practice of the Abu Sayyaf to recover their dead and bury them immediately," said Mamauag.
Mamauag said there were no reports from the field about enemy bodies recovered. "The information (Abu Sayyaf casualties) came from the civilians in the area," the official said.
The military launched the operation against Abu Sayyaf in the wake of extortion attempts by the terrorist group on a contractor involved in the construction of a road in the province.
The Abu Sayyaf was founded in the 1990s and had since perpetrated a number of high-profile attacks, including kidnapping and bombing.)