ZAMBOANGA CITY—Government troops attempting to rescue hostages held by Abu Sayyaf bandits clashed with the militants in Sulu province, leaving two soldiers and five gunmen dead.
Capt. Jo-Ann Petinglay, Western Mindanao Command spokesperson, said the 4 a.m. clash in Kalingalan Caluang town also wounded a soldier who was taken to Kuta Heneral Teodulfo Bautista Station Hospital in Jolo town. The soldier was later transferred to a hospital in this city.
The military did not identify the slain and wounded soldiers. Government troops recovered at least six guns from the clash site.
In an Associated Press (AP) report, Brig. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, provincial military commander in Sulu, said the troops encountered around 30 gunmen while they were trying to rescue 23 hostages, including 15 foreigners, amid reports that their captors had threatened to behead some of them.
According to Sobejana, the militants have separated the hostages among different commanders. It was not clear which captives were being held by the group that government troops clashed with.
Last month, the military retrieved the decapitated bodies of two Vietnamese crewmen who were abducted by the Abu Sayyaf last year. —JULIE S. ALIPALA AND AP
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