22 killed in clash of Filipino extremists, rebels
Muslim rebel group said Monday it attacked Abu Sayyaf gunmen after the al-Qaida-linked militants refused to free hostages, sparking fierce jungle clashes that left up to 22 combatants dead in the southern Philippines.
There was no word on whether the hostages were hurt in the fighting, but they remained in the grip of the Abu Sayyaf militants, police said.
Rebel commander Khabir Malik of the Moro National Liberation Front, which has an autonomy deal with the government, said his group decided to attack the Abu Sayyaf in the rugged mountains of Patikul town in southern Sulu province after negotiations collapsed on the release of several of its foreign hostages, including a Jordanian TV journalist and two European men who have been held since last year.
Abu Sayyaf militants did release two Filipino hostages over the weekend after an unspecified ransom was paid, security officials said, adding the captives were let loose on their own and not turned over to the Moro rebels.
"We had no choice," Malik told The Associated Press by telephone from Patikul. "They told us they won't hand over their hostages to us even if they die."
The Moro rebels battled the Abu Sayyaf with guns and knives at close range Sunday, Malik said, adding his group lost eight men, including one who was beheaded and a few others who were hacked to death.
Military and police officials in Sulu said up to 14 Abu Sayyaf men were killed, citing intelligence.
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