Philippine police and soldiers trying to serve an arrest warrant have killed nine suspected members of a criminal gang who allegedly resisted and opened fire, officials said Friday.
Two police officers also were wounded in Thursday's gunbattle on an island in Zamboanga Sibugay province in the restive south, said national police spokesman Agrimero Cruz.
Kidnappings, murders and extortion have plagued the impoverished region for decades, undermining security and development as government forces battle Muslim and communist insurgents.
Army soldiers accompanied police officers sent to arrest suspected gang leader Kamsa Asdanal on murder charges, but he and other gunmen opened fire, triggering a fierce battle on Kaliantana Island, said regional military spokesman Lt. Col. Randolph Cabangbang.
An electrical power box was hit during the clash, igniting a fire that razed six houses, including those where the gunmen were shooting from, Cabangbang said, adding that their remains were burned.
Asdanal and one of his sons were among those killed, Cruz said.
Asdanal's group has been blamed for a series of violent crimes in the area.
Soldiers and police recovered seven assault rifles, a grenade launcher and a pistol from the slain gunmen, Cruz said.
Regional police operations chief Felicisimo Khu said investigators were looking into the possible involvement of Asdanal's group in the killings Tuesday of an army officer, his wife and a government militiaman on a bus that was flagged down in the same province by a group of gunmen who later burned it.