Government security forces clashed with Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) bandits in a town in Bohol on Tuesday, leaving 14 people dead, including four government troops, The Manila Times Online reported on Wednesday.
The fierce firefight came one day after security officials confirmed the existence of a terror threat in Central Visayas.
The clash erupted in the village of Ilayu in Inabanga town where civilians reported to the police the presence of ASG bandits who arrived in several speedboats.
Philippine National Police chief Ronald De la Rosa said the group’s early detection stopped them from carrying out their kidnapping plan.
The firefight started at about 7 am and continued until late Tuesday afternoon. Reinforcements from the Army, Air Force and Navy were deployed in Inabanga.
According to intelligence reports, the rebel group was led by ASG sub-leader Muammar Askali alias Abu Rami, whose group was initially monitored in Sindagan, Zamboanga Del Norte. The rebels reached Inabanga Monday night.
The incursion was the first on a major tourist destination in recent years by ASG. Bohol is a major tourist destination, where foreign tourists swim with whale sharks and marvel at tiny primates called tarsiers, go on cruises aboard boats on crystal clear rivers and lounge at white-sand beaches.
Five bodies have been recovered at the scene of the fighting, said military spokesman Brig-Gen Restituto Padilla in a TV interview.
Clearing operations are going on and more forces were poured in to help, he added.