5 militants, 2 soldiers killed in Philippines gunfight
Five militants and two soldiers were killed during a gunfight Thursday in southern Sulu province where an operation against the Abu Sayyaf group continues, according to the military.
A marine was also injured in the fight in Pang village in Kalingalan Caluang town.
The marines had "heavily engaged" around 30 militants in the province as they conducted "focused military operations", according to a statement issued by Armed Forces of the Philippines Western Mindanao Command and quoted by ABS-CBN News.
A wide variety of weapons, including firearms, rifles and a submachine gun were also seized.
It was the latest clash against the Abu Sayyaf militant group, which since 1991, has carried out bombings, kidnappings, assassinations and extortions in a fight for an independent province in the Philippines.
The militants currently hold 23 hostages, 15 of whom were foreigners.
"All-out offensives against these bandits are continuously being conducted by the Western Mindanao Command to force them to yield to military troops and to release their captives," Commander Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr. said.
The father of one of the group's hostages appealed to the government after the armed group reportedly set a ransom deadline.
"They are demanding P1 million ($19,600) ransom each. We are poor, I'm just an ordinary driver. My son is a laborer," the father was quoted by the Inquirer News as saying Thursday.
"I hope the government helps. If the ransom would not be paid the captives will be beheaded," he added.
The military did not confirm the deadline but reiterated its commitment to rescue all hostages.