Two children killed in Abu Sayyaf attack in southern Philippines

MANILA (DPA) - Two children were killed when suspected Islamist militants attacked soldiers during a dialogue with civilians in a southern Philippine town, the military said on Sunday (May 26).

Five soldiers and two civilians were also injured in the fighting, which broke out on Saturday in the village of Igasan in the town of Patikul on Jolo island, 1,000km south of Manila, Brigadier General Divino Rey Pabayo said.

About 30 Abu Sayyaf militants swooped down on the village and opened fire at the soldiers as they were discussing development projects with the residents, Pabayo said.

The attack triggered a 30-minute firefight, and some of the civilians were caught in the crossfire. The two children killed were a 1-year-old boy and a 12-year-old girl, he said.

Authorities said the Abu Sayyaf militants attacked the village because the civilians were cooperating with the military.

"The militants were furious even with their own families, whom they suspected of collaborating with our soldiers," Pabayo said.

The Abu Sayyaf has been blamed for some of the worst terrorist attacks in the Philippines as well as high-profile kidnappings for ransom.

The group allied itself with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist network, which has claimed responsibility for several bombings in the Philippines.

In 2017, ISIS-allied militants, including members of the Abu Sayyaf, laid siege to the southern city of Marawi, triggering a five-month battle that killed more than 1,200 people.

Over half a million people were displaced, and the fighting left Marawi City in ruins.