Zamboanga: The Philippines military said on Sunday that top leaders of the al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf may have been among six militants killed in an early morning skirmish in the south of the country.
The military did not elaborate, except to say in a statement that several high powered firearms were also recovered after the clash with troops on the southern island of Jolo.
The statement came just three days after Philippine authorities arrested another Abu Sayyaf member who had been on the run for nine years.
Jumadail Arad was allegedly on a mission to buy firearms for the group when he was arrested Thursday in a joint Navy and police intelligence operation.
The military said Arad was the driver of a speedboat used by the Abu Sayyaf in a 2001 raid on a Philippine island resort in which a Christian missionary couple and a fellow American were kidnapped.
One of them was beheaded as a warning to pursuing troops while a second was killed in the raid that successfully recovered the third member of the group.
Several Filipinos were also kidnapped but most either escaped or were released, allegedly after ransom payments.
Arad is himself not an Abu Sayyaf leader, although he is a known associate of Isnilon Hapilon, one of the group`s commanders on Jolo island that has a five million dollar bounty on his head offered by the US government.
The Abu Sayyaf is a self-styled group of Islamic militants blamed for the country`s worst terrorist attacks, including the bombing of a passenger ferry on Manila Bay that killed over 100 people in 2004.
It is on the US government`s list of foreign terrorist organisations.