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ZAMBOANGA CITY – The Philippine military on Wednesday said troops killed 2 Abu Sayyaf militants in gunfight in Patikul town in Sulu, one of 5 provinces under the Muslim autonomous region in Mindanao.

It said the soldiers from the 35th and 21st infantry battalions clashed Tuesday with about 30 militants under Abu Sayyaf sub-leaders Jamiri Jawhari and Basaron Arok in Danag village.

A security spokesman, quoting reports from civilians in the village, claimed the bodies of slain militants were taken by their companions and that many others had been wounded in the clash.

But there were no civilians in the area because villagers had fled their homes for fear they would be caught up in the crossfire or mistaken for militants. The military said the operations against the Abu Sayyaf were continuing and that over 30 gunmen had been killed since the offensive against the notorious group began last month.

Many civilians in the town have armed themselves and joined the government-backed militia group called Barangay Police Action Team (BPAT) originally organized during the time of Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro and Sulu Governor Sakur Tan to protect civilian communities from Abu Sayyaf atrocities.

The incumbent Governor Toto Tan said he will help BPAT members secure permits for their weapons and told them to strictly follow the law and use their firearms to secure and protect their villages against Abu Sayyaf attacks.

Many towns also have its own BPAT which is being supervised by their mayors and police authorities.

Civilians have been providing authorities with information on the Abu Sayyaf and are supporting the government action against the militant group, blamed by the police and military for the spate of brutal killings of innocent people and ransom kidnappings in the restive region. (Mindanao Examiner)

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