ZAMBOANGA, Philippines Muslim guerrillas and government troops clashed Sunday in the Philippines' southern Sulu province on Sunday, the military said. Sixteen rebels and one soldier were killed.
Lt. Gen. Roy Cimatu, who leads the Philippines' Southern Command, said the fighting began around dawn when soldiers chanced upon about 100 Abu Sayyaf guerrillas in the Talipao area of Sulu's Jojo island.
It was not immediately known if the rebels were with Ghalib Andang, an Abu Sayyaf chieftain who led the kidnapping of 21 Western tourists and Asian workers from a scuba diving resort in Malaysia last year. The hostages were released after months in captivity, reportedly in exchange for huge ransoms.
Sporadic clashes also broke out Sunday on nearby Basilan island, where Abu Sayyaf rebels are holding about a dozen hostages, including American missionaries Martin and Gracia Burnham of Wichita.
The couple was kidnapped from a resort on May 27, along with a third American, Guillermo Sobero of Corona, Calif., whom the rebels claim to have beheaded. His remains were found on the island early this month.
More than 7,000 government troops are involved in an offensive against rebels on Basilan. There were no immediate reports of casualties in Sunday's clashes.
The rebels say they are fighting for Muslim independence in the southern Philippines, and they have been linked to Osama bin Laden, the main suspect in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States. The government dismisses the guerrillas as bandits.