MANILA - US-trained army commandos in the Philippines killed 10 al Qaida-linked militants in a clash on a southern island, a military spokesman said on Thursday, as security forces intensify a search for foreign hostages.
A lieutenant was among eight Philippine soldiers killed or wounded in a clash with about 300 members of the Abu Sayyaf militant group on Jolo island late on Wednesday, spokesman Major Filemon Tan told reporters.
"Our troops are pursuing the Abu Sayyaf who broke into small groups and withdrew to the interior of the island," Tan said, adding that 15 militants had also been wounded in the fighting.
"This is part of our focused military operation to free foreign hostages held by the Abu Sayyaf."
Tan said the Abu Sayyaf group is holding two Canadians, along with a Dutch citizen, a Norwegian and a Japanese.
Last month, they beheaded a Malaysian captive, prompting President Benigno Aquino to order intensified operations against the rebels.
Tan said US-trained scout rangers had assaulted a rebel lair, triggering a three-hour battle. Troops later fired artillery at the fleeing rebels.
There were no indications any of the hostages were in the area, he said.