5 Filipino troops killed in clash with militants

Fierce fighting has erupted between Philippine troops and Muslim militants on two southern islands, leaving at least five soldiers dead and scores wounded, officials said Monday. Troops were pursuing al-Qaida-linked Abu Sayyaf militants blamed for a recent spike in ransom kidnappings when they came under attack in Al-Barka township on Basilan island on Sunday, military spokeswoman Lt. Steffani Cacho said. She said the attackers included Abu Sayyaf guerrillas, who recently snatched seven construction workers, a 9-year-old and a nursing student, as well some members of the main Muslim separatist group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. The group's spokesman, Eid Kabalu, on Monday denied the rebels were involved.