8 killed, 22 injured in S. Philippine clash

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines, March 18 (Xinhua) -- Seven members of the terrorist Abu Sayyaf and a government soldier were killed in a fierce firefight in south Philippine province of Sulu on Friday morning, said military officials.

Alan Arrojado, commander of the military's Joint Task Group Sulu, said the fighting also resulted in the wounding of 16 soldiers and six members of the terrorist group, including senior leader Radullan Sahiron.

He said the encounter happened at 9:15 a.m. in Patikul town when the troops under the 10th Infantry Battalion on combat mission clashed with around 100 Abu Sayyaf militants. The firefight lasted until 10:40 a.m..

Arrojado believed that the number of the Abu Sayyaf casualties could be more as the fighting soldiers were supported by heavy artillery.

He said the Abu Sayyaf group withdrew dragging undetermined number of its casualties based on the account of the pursuing troops in the ground.

Felimon Tan Jr., spokesman of the military's area unit command in Western Mindanao, said military combat helicopters were deployed and airlifted all the wounded and lone government fatality.

"Pursuit operations continued against the Abu Sayyaf group in the ground," Tan said.

According to Tan, military battalions near the area of encounter were directed to maneuver for blocking operation against the fleeing Abu Sayyaf group.

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