IBTimes UK

Philippine troops killed at least nine fighters of the Abu Sayyaf group in southern Philippines on Thursday, following heavy fighting between the armed militant group and government forces.

Regional military spokesman, Maj. Filemon Tan, said that one soldier was also killed and six were wounded in the battle against about 130 Abu Sayyaf fighters in the jungles of the mountainous Patikul town in Sulu province. He added that at least 19 members of the Abu Sayyaf group were injured.

The fighting started when the troops encountered suspected members of the armed group during an operation to rescue the hostages being held by the group in Sulu.

The Abu Sayyaf group is still holding several people hostage, including a Norwegian, who has been identified as Sekkingstad, seven Indonesian sailors and other Filipinos.

Sekkingstad was abducted with two Canadians and a Filipino woman in September from the southern island of Samal. The militants have threatened to kill him if a ransom is not paid.

In his recent swearing-in session, President Rodrigo Duterte said that the government will wipe out the armed group, which has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS).

The Abu Sayyaf group has been blacklisted as a terrorist organisation by the United States, and the Philippines.

The group had earlier beheaded two Canadian hostages, after a ransom was not paid for their release. But on June 24, the Abu Sayyaf had freed Filipino Marites Flor.

IBTimes UK