5 Abu Sayyaf rebels killed by Philippine troops

Government troops struck back against the rebel group Abu Sayyaf in the southern Philippines early on Saturday after an encounter on Friday in which two soldiers were killed.

"[In the] firefight between government forces and terrorist ASG [Abu Sayyaf] at Unkaya Pukan and Tipo-Tipo boundary in Basilan Province the enemies suffered five killed and several others wounded," Capt. Rowena Muyuela, spokesperson of the Armed Forces' Western Mindanao Command, told reporters.

Government troops have been battling the Abu Sayyaf rebels in the area since Friday, after the rebel group launched the attack that left the two soldiers dead, and 28 others wounded.

Most of the wounded suffered minor shrapnel injuries and were airlifted to Camp Navarro General Hospital for medical attention.

Five rebels also died in the firefight, the Western Mindanao Command spokesperson said Saturday.

Friday's military operation was aimed at neutralizing the group, which is blamed for bombings, kidnapping and extortion.

Around 200 soldiers from the Philippine Army's 104th Infantry Brigade and Joint Special Operations Group were conducting a strike operation to apprehend Abu Sayyaf commander Furuji Indama when the firefight erupted.

Indama is suspected to be behind kidnappings and a series of attacks at a rubber plantation in Maluso town, also in the country's south. He has a 3.3 million peso (US$75,000) bounty on his head and is also suspected to be part of a group that killed 14 marines, beheading 10 of them, in an ambush in 2007.

Brig. Gen. Carlito Galvez, commander of the 104th Brigade, said the firefight has now moved to a nearby area of Barangay Baguindan, where the Abu Sayyaf has occupied school buildings.

Basilan, around 43 miles (70 km) from Jolo, is another known stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf.