I think the gloves have come off with this. It's interesting how the press always seems to downplay the "rebels" losses and focus on the Army's.
Clashes in Southern Philippines Leave 15 Troops, 30 Rebels Dead
At least 15 Philippine soldiers and up to 30 Abu Sayyaf rebels have been killed in clashes between troops and Al-Qaeda-linked militants in the southern Philippines, a military spokesman said.
Umair Indama, one of the rebels' purported commanders, was among those killed in the military assault on a hideout on Basilan island, military spokesman Lt. Col. Bartolome Bacarro said.
``The firefight is ongoing,'' Bacarro told reporters. ``Troops are now concentrating in the area. We will press on with the fight.''
The Philippine military recently stepped up operations against the Abu Sayyaf group, which is linked to Jemaah Islamiyah, on Jolo island, about 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) from the capital, Manila, and neighboring Basilan island.
Troop numbers have swelled in Basilan and Jolo recently to about 12,000, Agence France-Presse said. The government is searching for rebels allegedly involved in the July 10 beheading of 10 marines.
Dulmatin and Umar Patek, two purported leaders of the Jemaah Islamiyah network, are on the run with the Abu Sayyaf in Jolo, officials say. They are alleged to have been involved in the 2002 bombings on the Indonesian resort island of Bali that killed 202 people.
Jemaah Islamiyah has been blamed for the 2002 and 2005 Bali bombings, the Jakarta Marriott attack in 2003, and is alleged to have plotted to attack the U.S. Embassy and U.S. Naval facility in Singapore. Some members from the regional terror group received training from Al-Qaeda and Taliban in Afghanistan, anti-terrorism officials say.
Bacarro said the assault on the Abu Sayyaf camp in Ungkaya Pukan town early today was coordinated with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. Around 70 Abu Sayyaf were in the camp, he said.
At least 53 government troops have been killed in just over a month. Four clashes over three days from Aug. 7 left 26 soldiers and an estimated 41 Abu Sayyaf and rogue Moro National Liberation Front members killed.