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Two killed in Philippine extremist attack

[MANILA] Two soldiers were killed in a pre-dawn attack by Islamic extremists in the conflict-racked southern Philippines on Monday, a local military spokesman said.

Abu Sayyaf guerrillas fired at a military detachment in the jungles near Talipao town on Jolo island, sparking a 15-minute gunbattle that also left another soldier wounded, said Major Filemon Tan.

Jolo is a known stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf, a small band notorious for kidnapping foreign tourists and bomb attacks. The group recently pledged allegiance to Islamic State jihadists.

"It was a treacherous attack. They used the cover of night," Maj Tan told AFP.

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It was unclear how many attacked the 20 Marines manning the detachment in the remote village of Mapallam, he said.

An attack by a separate group of Muslim guerillas in the main southern island of Mindanao over Christmas left 10 civilians dead, according to the military.

Abu Sayyaf are holding two Canadian tourists and a Norwegian businessman abducted in the southern Philippines in September, along with a Dutch birdwatcher kidnapped in 2012.

They are also widely believed to be holding an Italian pizza restaurant owner snatched in the region in October.

The decapitated head of a Malaysian whom the group had kidnapped in May was found in Jolo last month.

Listed as a terrorist organisation by the US State Department, the Abu Sayyaf are responsible for the worst terrorist attacks in the Philippines, including the bombing of a ferry off Manila Bay in 2004 that killed over 100 people.

AFP

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