At least 18 soldiers were killed and more than 50 wounded in a shoot out between government soldiers and Islamic militant group Abu Sayyaf in the southern Philippines, officials said Sunday.
A Moroccan bomb maker and the militant leader’s son were among the militants dead, at least 20 rebels were believed to have been wounded, the military officials said. Four soldiers were decapitated.
The 10-hour shootout took place on the southwestern island of Basilan on Saturday. It was the largest loss of government soldiers in a single-day this year on the tense island, known as a hotbed of Communist and Muslim rebels.
Philippine media reported about 100 Abu Sayyaf fighters battled troops. Wounded soldiers were continuing to be evacuated late Saturday.
Soldiers were attacked while searching for members of the militant group outside the small town of Tipo-Tipo early Saturday. Six soldiers were critically wounded, officials said.
Despite Abu Sayyaf and other rebel groups declaring allegiance to the Islamic State, Philippine military officials said there is no evidence they are being supported in any way from the militant group.
More than 30 police commandos were killed by Muslim extremists during a 2015 government raid on the mainland.