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ZAMBOANGA, Philippines — Philippine troops killed 12 Abu Sayyaf militants in clashes as they pressed an offensive in a southern province where the extremists have been blamed for the deadly bombing of a Roman Catholic cathedral, the military said Friday.

The 12 militants were killed in four clashes Thursday in mountainous Patikul town in Sulu province. The bodies of two of the slain militants were recovered and several army scout rangers were wounded, the military’s Western Mindanao Command said.

In the initial and largest clash, troops battled about 120 militants led by Hajan Sawadjaan and Radullan Sahiron near the village of Panglayahan. Four militants were killed and the rest withdrew and were chased by troops, military officials said.

Among those killed was Julie Ikit, an aide of Sahiron, who is on the U.S. list of wanted terrorists for his involvement in past ransom kidnappings and terrorist attacks, Sulu’s military spokesman Lt. Col. Gerald Monfort said.

Troops later caught up with some of the fleeing militants in the jungle and engaged them in clashes that left eight more gunmen dead and several wounded, military officials said.

Sahiron managed to flee with Sawadjaan, the main suspect in the Jan. 27 bombing of a Roman Catholic cathedral that killed 23 people during a Mass in Sulu’s capital, Jolo. The suicide-bomb attack sparked the latest military offensive against Abu Sayyaf.

A Section on 04/13/2019

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