Death toll in Philippine clashes rises to 26

Officials say the death toll in fighting between Philippine government troops and Muslim militants who launched a surprise attack to regain control of a captured jungle training encampment has risen to 26.

Manila: Officials say the death toll in fighting between Philippine government troops and Muslim militants who launched a surprise attack to regain control of a captured jungle training encampment has risen to 26.

Capt Maria Rowena Muyuela, the regional military spokeswoman, said field reports today showed 25 Abu Sayyaf militants have been killed and 24 wounded. Philippine marines suffered 1 dead and 19 wounded.

The heavy exchange of rifle grenade and mortar fire erupted late Tuesday in a mountain area off southern Sulu province`s Patikul town then eased into sporadic exchanges of sniper shots past midnight, with reinforcement marines beating back about 100 Abu Sayyaf attackers, military officials said.

Abu Sayyaf, which is on a US list of terrorist organisations, has had links with foreign terrorist networks, including al-Qaida.

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