The Abu Sayyaf, best known to Americans as the terrorists who took Guillermo Sobero and missionaries Martin and Gracia Burnham hostage (Sobero was beheaded, Martin Burnham was shot in the back and Gracia was held hostage for over a year more here
), ambushed a convoy of soldiers. They have been fighting for a separate Muslim state in the Southern Philippines.
The number of dead is hard to gauge since there are wide discrepancies from those in the area, but it is believed that 30 terrorists were killed and at least 17 soldiers.
The military sent fresh troops to Jolo island to reinforce about 3,000 soldiers battling hundreds of rebels from Abu Sayyaf, a small group linked to al Qaeda, and renegade members of the Moro National Liberation Front.
The government signed a peace deal with the MNLF in 1996 and is due to restart talks in March with the 11,000-member Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which broke from the MNLF in 1978.
Abu Sayyaf was best known for kidnapping foreigners and Filipinos for ransom until it killed at least 100 people with a bomb on a passenger ferry in February 2004.
The military said 17 soldiers and about 30 rebels had been killed. But local officials said as many as 40 soldiers may have died since Monday.
The violence erupted when hundreds of rebels ambushed a convoy of soldiers in Patikul town on Monday. They also staged attacks in three other areas of Jolo in Sulu province.
"We have information that the supporters of former chairman Nur Misuari wanted the transfer of his detention to Sulu," Braganza said in a radio interview on Tuesday. "They are trying to pressure the government to give in to their demands."
Misuari, a political science professor at a state university, organised the MNLF in 1968 to wage war for a Muslim state in the south of the mainly Roman Catholic country.
Tipped by: Backcountry Conservative