5 Abu Sayyaf members killed in Sulu clash

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Five members of the Abu Sayyaf group were killed in a clash between government troops and armed rebels in Sulu, the miiltary said Thursday.

Troops from the 2nd Scout Ranger Battalion engaged an undetermined number of Abu Sayyaf fighters in Barangay Bud-Taran, Indanan, Sulu in a gunfight on Wednesday, the military's Western Mindanao Command (Wesmincom) said.

A soldier was wounded in the fighting, while 10 other military personnel sustained minor injuries, the military said.

The injured were immediately brought to Kuta Heneral Teodulfo Bautista Hospital in Jolo, Sulu.

"The Joint Task Force Sulu continues to intensify the conduct of offensives against the Abu Sayyaf to neutralize the bandits and ensure the safe rescue of the remaining hostages," said Major General Carlito G. Galvez, Jr., Wesmincom commander.

At least 31 hostages are still held captive by the Abu Sayyaf group, the Armed Forces said. They include a Dutch national, seven Indonesians, five Malaysians, 12 Vietnamese, and six Filipinos.

In a strongly-worded statement on Thursday, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana promised heightened military operations against the terrorist group after the brutal beheading of German hostage Juergen Gustav Kantner.

READ: AFP confirms: Abu Sayyaf beheaded German victim  

"[We] are going after these animals (Abu Sayyaf group) with the full force of the law… They will feel the wrath of the entire Filipino nation through the might of its armed forces," Lorenzana said.