Abu Sayyaf militants in Philippines
A military truck tows a 105 mm howitzer as soldiers arrive in Jolo, Sulu southern Philippines October 16, 2014. Reuters

At least seven marines were injured in a suspected Abu Sayaff attack in the Philippine town of Talipao.

Officials said the marine battalion troopers were travelling in a convoy when an improvised explosive device (IED) planted on the road exploded.

The injured marines were taken to the trauma hospital in Jolo, Sulu, Philstar reported citing an army spokesman in Western Mindanao.

Brigadier General Alan Arrojado, who commands the joint task forces in Sulu, sad he believed the Abu Sayyaf militant group was behind the attack.

Days earlier, an Abu Sayyaf operative had been arrested in Sulu. Officials said a caliber .45 pistol and ammunition were recovered from the suspect.

Philippine military estimates that Abu Sayyaf has around 300 men in Sulu region. Days earlier the military said it was deploying 500 more specialist troops in the region to "to finish off the Abu Sayyaf.

The militant group is reportedly holding several Filipino and foreign hostages in the region.

What is Abu Sayyaf?

Abu Sayyaf translates into 'Bearer of the Sword'. It is an Islamic militant group founded in the early 1990s by a preacher who returned from the Afghan war.

Abu Sayyaf took shape as a splinter group of the Moro National Liberation Front MNLF).

The group was behind several bombings, hostage taking and kidnap for ransom throughout the 90s. They were behind the Manila bombings in 2005 and the bomb explosion outside the Philippine Congress in 2007 that killed a Congressman and three others.

In 2001 they kidnapped tourists from a resort and murdered three of the hostages later, including an American.

Abu Sayyaf's vision is the establishment of a pan-Islamic super-state in Southeast Asia. Their immediate goal is to set up an Islamic state in the western Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago.

Abu Sayyaf founder Abdurajak Abubakar Janjalan was killed in a military action in 1998 and his brother who took over the reins of the outfit was killed in 2006.

The outfit has been linked to al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiah at various times.