World Bulletin / News Desk
Brig. Gen. Arnel dela Vega, Joint Task Force Sulu commander, said in a statement that two separate but connected encounters also left three militants and one soldier injured in Panamao town.
"The first encounter transpired at 7:20am between an estimated 30 Abu Sayyaf and Bravo Company of 35th Infantry Battalion in Barangay [village] Pugad… where the two said ASG [Abu Sayyaf Group] were killed and one soldier was wounded,” he said.
“Troops recovered one body count while the other was carried by the ASG as seen by pursuing troops and revealed by civilians.”
The second clash reportedly broke out less than two hours later with the same Abu Sayyaf group, among whom three sustained injuries.
According to Dela Vega, the militant group involved in the encounters is reportedly holding some Malaysian and Indonesian hostages.
"This is the second successive day that troops engaged the ASG in Sulu," he said. "Our troops will continue to pursue the extremists until we deal a crippling blow to their ranks and leadership and rescue the remaining hostage."
Since 1991, the Abu Sayyaf -- armed with mostly improvised explosive devices, mortars and automatic rifles -- has carried out bombings, kidnappings, assassinations and extortion in a self-determined fight for an independent province in the Philippines.
The group is notorious for beheading victims after ransoms have failed to be paid for their release.
It is one of two militant groups in the south to have pledged allegiance to ISIL, prompting fears during the stalling of a peace process between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebel group that it could make inroads in a region torn by decades of armed conflict.