Suspected Abu Sayyaf militants launched bomb attacks that wounded five army soldiers who were hunting them amid a crackdown on kidnappings in the southern Philippines, the army said Tuesday.
Army spokesman Col. Antonio Parlade Jr. said a homemade bomb sprayed shrapnel that struck three Scout Rangers Monday in a far-flung village on Basilan Island's Sumisip town, where the al-Qaida-linked militants are active.
Two Scout Rangers from another army unit were wounded by a second bomb set off when they tripped a wire as they pursued a group of Abu Sayyaf militants later Monday in a forested mountain in Sumisip, he said.
One of the wounded soldiers was undergoing surgery while the rest were out of danger, he said.
The special army forces were attacked as they hunted Abu Sayyaf gunmen responsible for recent kidnappings for ransom. They were also trying to secure a major Basilan road project from the Abu Sayyaf, Parlade said.
The Abu Sayyaf, notorious for bombings, kidnappings for ransom and beheadings, has been blacklisted by Washington as a terrorist organization. U.S.-backed offensives have led to the killing and capture of hundreds of its commanders and fighters although the group remains a key security threat.
A government threat assessment report seen by The Associated Press recently said the 410 remaining Abu Sayyaf fighters, who remain without a central leader, are so troubled by funding problems they have kidnapped even poor victims to get ransoms in Basilan and outlying provinces.