FIVE Abu Sayyaf bandits were killed while seven soldiers were wounded in a clash as rescue operations for the remaining kidnap victims continue in Sulu, military officials said Monday, February 12.

The clash broke out when members of the Marine Battalion Landing Team-3 (MBLT-3) spotted 30 Abu Sayyaf bandits at 4:15 a.m. Sunday in Bud (Mount) Bawis, Panamao, Sulu.

The troops were scouring Bud Bawis after they received information that the group of Abu Sayyaf sub-leaders Sansibar Bensio and Hatib Munap Binda are in the area, hiding along with some kidnap victims.

Brigadier General Cirilito Sobejana, Joint Task Force Sulu commander, said the firefight lasted for one and a half hour. The bandits then fled and left behind the remains of four Abu Sayyaf gunmen and an M-14 rifle.

Sobejana said the four slain bandits were identified as Mikdak Juhurim, Annin Black, Tasom Hammiri, and Undil Husin.

He said the military was informed by witnesses that another Abu Sayyaf follower, identified as a certain Roger, has expired.

He said they also saw the bandits carrying some of their wounded companions as they fled.

The troops have coordinated with the local officials of Panamao town to afford appropriate and decent burial to the slain bandits if their remains left unclaimed, Sobejana added.

He said the troops are tracking down the group of Bensio and Binda, who are operating in the towns of Panamao, Omar and Luuk.

The identities of the seven wounded troops were withheld, but they all belong to the MBLT-3.

Lieutenant General Carlito Galvez Jr., Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) chief, said operations continue to rescue all the hostages.

The Abu Sayyaf is still holding captives nine people -- five foreigners and four Filipinos. The foreigners included three Indonesians, one Vietnamese and one Dutch. (SunStar Philippines)