IBTimes UK

Three Abu Sayyaf militants were killed and 16 government soldiers were wounded during a clash in Patikul town, Sulu, Philippines officials said. Ten more bandits were reported to be wounded in the same encounter on Tuesday.

Major Filemon Tan, the spokesperson of the Western Mindanao Command, said the encounter happened in Sitio Bud Duwa Bayho in Pansul village in Patikul town and it lasted for almost one hour and 30 minutes.

"The Abu Sayyaf bandits scampered toward different locations during the heavy gun battle," Tan told Philippine News Agency.

The wounded soldiers were immediately taken to Trauma Hospital KHTB, Busbus, Jolo, Sulu for quick treatment.

Tan also said the troops will still continue with focused military operations in Sulu region in order to pin down the ASG bandits and rescue the remaining hostages, including foreigners.

The foreign hostages include a Dutch birdwatcher, identified as Ewold Horn and Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingtad.

The Abu Sayyaf militants had kidnapped Sekkingtad on September 21, 2015 along with John Ridsel, Robert Hall and Filipina Marites Flor, Hall's girlfriend. Ewold Horn was abducted in February 2012 in Tawi-Tawi.

The militants beheaded both Ridsel and Hall on April 25 and June 13 respectively, after ransom deadlines expired.

IBTimes UK