ZAMBOANGA, Philippines – About 1,000 more troops will be deployed to battle Al Qaeda linked rebels on a southern Philippine island where at least 22 soldiers and guerrillas died in a clash last week, officials said Monday.
The offensive aimed at wiping out an Abu Sayyaf rebel group on Sulu Island was focused on a jungle region near the coastal town of Patikul, said Southern Philippine military forces chief Lt. Gen. Ernesto Carolina.
"This will be the last fight," he predicted.
Abu Sayyaf rebels have been loosely linked to Usama bin-Laden's Al Qaeda terror network. The main Abu Sayyaf faction in nearby Basilan island was decimated in a months-long offensive that ended recently.
Also Monday, U.S. officials declined to comments on reports that there is threat information about potential Al Qaeda attacks in Manila.
In fighting near Patikul on Friday, the military said about 100 army soldiers clashed with a large number of Abu Sayyaf guerrillas and members of another Muslim rebel group, the Moro National Liberation Front, leaving eight soldiers and at least 14 rebels dead. Fourteen soldiers were also wounded.
A few thousand Philippine troops, including some trained by U.S. forces in a recent counter-terrorism exercise, are already in Sulu, about 580 miles south of Manila to fight the Abu Sayyaf.