15 dead in Philippines militants attack


Thirteen assailants and two soldiers were killed when a militant group attacked a military outpost in the lawless southern Philippines on Sunday, the army said.
About 50 men attacked the Marine outpost on the strife-torn island of Jolo before dawn but the troops fought back, driving them off, said regional military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Randolph Cabangbang. He said two soldiers were killed in the gun battle, and the military had recovered 13 of the assailants’ bodies.
Cabangbang identified the attackers as members of the “Awiiyah group”, which he described as a radical organisation with links to Abu Sayyaf, a local Muslim extremist group founded with the help of the Al-Qaeda network in the 1990s, which has been linked to the worst terror attacks in Philippine history. The Philippines is Asia’s Roman Catholic outpost but there are about four million Muslims who live mainly in the south.
An insurgency has waged for four decades with Muslims aiming for independence or an autonomous substate in the southern areas they say are their ancestral homelands. But the main Muslim rebel group is involved in peace talks with the government, and insists it has no ties to radical groups such as the Abu Sayyaf, which is listed by the US as a terrorist organisation.
Cabangbang said the gunmen in Sunday’s attack had apparently miscalculated the timing of the assault on the military outpost, where between 60 and 90 Marines were stationed.