Two Abu Sayyaf members were killed as government troops clashed with the bandit group in Patikul, Sulu, Thursday afternoon, the military said.
Marine troopers recovered the slain bandits' bodies and two high-powered firearms, said Captain Antonio Bulao, public affairs officer of the Armed Forces' Joint Task Group Sulu.
Elements of the 2nd Marine Battalion Landing Team (MBLT-2) encountered about 80 Abu Sayyaf members in Sitio Poncho Kan Sahiron, Brgy. Danag, around 4 p.m., Bulao said.
The bandits were led by Abu Sayyaf sub-commander Hairullah Asbang, he said, citing a report of JTG Sulu commander Colonel Alan Arrojado to AFP Joint Task Force Zambasulta chief Rear Adm. Reynaldo Yoma.
Sporadic firefights were still ongoing as of 5 p.m., Bulao said.
More members of the MBLT-2 have been sent to reinforce the engaged troops.
Elements of the Army's Scout Rangers, Special Forces, as well as the 32nd and 35th Infantry Battalions, have been deployed to block the bandits' possible withdrawal routes, Bulao said.