Security in the southern Philippine province of Sulu have been placed on heightened alert Sunday for possible retaliatory attacks of Muslim terrorist group Abu Sayyaf as the death toll in the fierce gun battle between Marines and the radical group reached 12.
The troops were pursuing the militants and a retaliatory attack may occur as the Abu Sayyaf suffered severe casualties during an encounter in the hinterlands of Patikul, said Chief Superintendent Noel Delos Reyes, head of police in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
He ordered all troops in the province to take precautionary move to prevent any diversionary attacks that may be carried out by Abu Sayyaf since one of their fatalities was the son of Abu Sayyaf leader Adzmar Sawadjali.
"They might stage bombings and kidnappings to distract the attention of our police and soldiers pursuing them," Reyes said.
At least seven Marines and five Abu Sayyaf have been killed in the gun battle on Saturday in Tugas village. Nine other Marines and about 10 Abu Sayyaf fighters were wounded.
Troops were on mission against militants involved in recent kidnapping incidents in Sulu when they encountered Abu Sayyaf militants.
The 380-strong Abu Sayyaf group, founded in the early 1990s by Islamic extremists, is one of the major anti-government forces in the Philippints. The group is notorious for kidnappings, bombings and even beheadings in southern Philippines over the past decade.