MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine military says fierce fighting has erupted between troops and Muslim militants on two southern islands, leaving at least five soldiers dead and scores wounded.
Military spokeswoman Lt. Steffani Cacho says troops were pursuing Al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf militants blamed for a recent spike in ransom kidnappings when they came under attack in Al-Barka township on Basilan island on Sunday.
She says five troops were killed and 24 wounded. Fighting also has been reported on nearby Jolo island, where an additional 11 soldiers were wounded.
Cacho says the injured include an air force pilot whose plane was hit but did not crash.