Twenty people died while hundreds were displaced following a clash between members of a Muslim rebel group and Al Qaida linked militants in the southern Philippine province of Sulu, a police official said Monday.
Senior Superintendent Antonio Freyra, provincial police commander of Sulu, told a local radio station the Abu Sayyaf members also beheaded four Moro National Liberation Front.
The hostilities begun on Saturday night following the release of two Filipino television crews in the jungles of Patikul.
Kidnap victims Rolando Letrero and Ramelito Vela were freed from the Abu Sayyaf camp in Patikul town but the victims' companion, Jordanian journalist Baker Atyani, is still in the militants' hand.
Atyani and two Filipino companions declared "missing" in Sulu since June 13 of last year. An Abu Sayyaf Group leader later claimed to have in custody the three victims.
Freyra said among those killed in the fighting were seven MNLF members and 13 Abu Sayyaf. He added the displaced civilians were also evacuated.
The 380-strong Abu Sayyaf group, founded in the early 1990s, is a violent Muslim terrorist group operating in southern Philippines. The ASG engages in kidnappings for ransom, bombings, beheadings, assassinations, and extortion.
The group's stated goal is to promote an independent Islamic state in western Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago, areas in the southern Philippines.