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Bloody clash kills 17 in Philippines jungle

| Thursday, June 19, 2014, 6:03 p.m.

MANILA — Philippine security forces battled Abu Sayyaf militants in the south on Thursday in fierce clashes that killed seven troops and 10 rebels in the latest confrontation in the insurgency-wracked region, military officials said.

Government forces were patrolling a remote jungle area when they saw a group of Abu Sayyaf gunmen and engaged them in a gunbattle that killed a marine near Patikul in predominantly Muslim Sulu province, a military spokesman, Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala, said.

An army outpost near the initial clash was hit by mortar fire 10 minutes later, killing six soldiers and wounding several others, Zagala said. He said three of the wounded were in serious condition and were airlifted by helicopters to a military hospital in southern Zamboanga city.

At least 24 marines and soldiers were wounded in the clashes, mostly by the barrage of mortar fire.

The military said 10 militants were killed in the fighting. Troops were pursuing the retreating militants, who were believed to be led by an Abu Sayyaf commander named Hairullah Asbang who has been linked to recent ransom kidnappings, the military said.

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