Six soldiers killed after clash with Abu Sayyaf in Basilan

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Zamboanga City  (CNN Philippines, November 9) — Six soldiers were killed and four others wounded in an encounter with members of the Abu Sayyaf group and their sympathizers in Basilan, the military said Thursday. 

The Abu Sayyaf along with other bandits believed to be their family members and sympathizers attacked on Wednesday government troops approaching the Basilan Circumferential Road in Sumisip town in Basilan, the Western Mindanao Command (Wesmincom) said in a statement.

"As they edged towards the circumferential road, operating troops were met with heavy fire by lawless elements believed to be relatives and sympathizers of the Abu Sayyaf bandits," said Colonel Juvymax Uy, Task Force Basilan Commander.

The firefight in Barangay Cabengbeng Upper in Sumisip lasted for about hours, officials said.The number of enemies killed is unknown.

The troops under siege were aided by members of the 64th and 68th Infantry Battalions, and air support from the Philippine Air Force, officials said.

The rebels were retaliating after the 18th Infantry Battalion launched a military strike at 12:41 p.m. on Wednesday to target the Abu Sayyaf and the leaders of its Basilan faction, Siar Alhamsirol and Parong Tedi, the military said.

The slain soldiers' remains were claimed by their family members in Zamboanga City. The wounded were brought to Camp Navarro General Hospital and a private hospital in Zamboanga City for medical attention.

The military will intensify operations against the Abu Sayyaf, Wesmincom commander Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez said.

"As we mourn, combat operations against the bandits will be intensified with our intelligence operations and sustained campaign to defeat the remaining terrorists," Galvez added in a statement.

Abu Sayyaf in Basilan was formerly led by Isnilon Hapilon, the  designated "emir" or leader of the ISIS in Southeast Asia who was killed after leading the rebellion in Marawi City with the Maute group.

The Abu Sayyaf are known for the kidnap-for-ransom activities in the southern Philippines. Basilan is an island province more than 1,400 kilometers south of Manila, and more than 80 kilometers south of here.

CNN Philippines' Liza Jocson in Zamboanga City contributed to this report.