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After two years of captivity by Abu Sayyaf militants, Swiss bird watcher Lorenzo Vinceguerra escaped while Philippine troops fired rounds into the Abu Sayyaf camp in Patikul on Sulu. During the clash, Vinceguerra killed one of his captors, militant subcommander Juhurim Hussien, and was wounded by militant gunfire. In pursuit, Philippine troops later killed five Abu Sayyaf militants in Talipao on Sulu. Abu Sayyaf militants on Sulu are thought to be still holding more than 10 hostages.

Government soldiers clashed with Abu Sayyaf militants in the mountains on Sulu during a raid on a camp in Talipao where some 300 militants were reportedly based. At least 14 Abu Sayyaf fighters and five soldiers were killed, and 26 soldiers were wounded in the hours-long gun battle. A group of 50 Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters attacked army positions in Barangay Kabasala on Mindanao, forcing 100 civilians to flee the area; one BIFF member and two civilians were killed in the clash.

President Aquino urged the armed forces to crush the extremist group Abu Sayyaf and bring its members to justice; he estimated that the group consists of 200 members and at least 200 additional followers. Abu Sayyaf fighters ambushed Philippine troops who were guarding a road project yesterday in Basilan, killing six of them and reportedly seizing weapons.

President Aquino said the Philippines will refuse "impossible or unclear" UN missions, after the UN refused Philippine peacekeeping troops' requests for more weapons to fight off al Qaeda militants in the Golan area along the Syrian border and ordered the Philippine troops to surrender to secure the release of kidnapped Fijian peacekeepers. Military and intelligence sources said that wanted terrorist Zulkifli bin Abdul Hir a.k.a. Marwan, a Malaysian, is among those actively recruiting for the Islamic State in Mindanao, and that he is joined by Jemaah Islamiyah members Mawiyah, Quaim, and Abu Saad, and a Saudi named Abdurahman. Officials said they are having trouble arresting Moro National Liberation Front chairman Nur Misuari, who is wanted for crimes in September 2013 that killed over 200 people, as he is surrounded by armed followers in Sulu. The military is thinking of trying to rescue two German hostages held by an Abu Sayyaf splinter group.

Immigration authorities said they plan to send extremist cleric Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips back to Canada; Philips, who is banned from United States, Britain, Australia, Kenya, and Bangladesh, was detained by authorities in Davao a few days ago as he presented a security threat. Intelligence officials said they are monitoring the movement of Philippine jihadists to and from Syria and Iraq, and noted that their numbers are increasing.

The US Embassy warned Americans to avoid travel to Sulu and the Mindanao archipelago due to the activities of al Qaeda-linked groups such as Abu Sayyaf. Reports have emerged that elements of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and the Abu Sayyaf, including wanted leader Isnilon Hapilon, have sworn allegiance to the Islamic State. Wanted Abu Sayyaf leader Mobin Hailil a.k.a. Apo Kahumbo was arrested on firearms charges; he is suspected of facilitating the transfer of kidnapping victims from Sabah to Jolo. Three kidnapping victims who were seized two weeks ago were freed in Marawi city. Abu Sayyaf kidnapped a midwife in Sulu.

Security forces arrested two Abu Sayyaf militants, including alleged sub-leader Nur Hassan a.k.a. Jemhar Halillula Ali, during raids in Zamboanga city. A public school supervisor who was kidnapped by Abu Sayyaf in January was released after payment of a ransom.

Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) militants conducted simultaneous attacks against security forces in Datu Piang in Maguindanao. Authorities looked into reports that a German couple kidnapped by Abu Sayyaf may be captive on a southern island. Captured Abu Sayyaf commander Khair Mundos has told authorities that he met last year in Maguindanao with Marwan a.k.a. Zulfikli bin Hir, a top Malaysian terrorist suspect who was reportedly killed in 2012; the meeting at a BIFF camp also included a Singaporean militant, Muhamda Ali a.k.a. Muawiyah, and another militant, Amin Baco, said to be a Malaysian. On Aug. 6, the military said that bin Hir, a top Jemaah Islamiyah leader also wanted by the US, is alive and in Mindanao. A group called Ansar al-Khalifah in the Philippines, from southern Mindanao, issued a video announcing its allegiance to the Islamic State.

A group of Abu Sayyaf fighters led by Idang Susukan and Sibih Pisih ambushed two buses in Talipao in Sulu that were carrying 50 people celebrating Eid al-Fitr, killing at least 16, most of them women. The Western Mindanao counterterrorism force said the 10 policemen escorting the civilians were probably the real targets of the attack; a search for the attackers has begun. Abu Sayyaf released a kidnapped construction worker. The Moro Islamic Liberation Front accused the military of violating the ceasefire in MILF areas in Maguindanao province, but the military said its operations were actually against Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in areas close to those held by MILF. President Aquino vowed that reforms would be carried out even if he is killed by a bomb.

Militants from the Bangsamo Islamic Liberation Front attacked security forces in two towns in Maguindanao province yesterday, killing one soldier and wounding two others; 17 militants were killed in the clash, including a close aide to BIFF leader Ameril Ombra Kato. The BIFF disputed the army's report. Army operations are continuing in the area.

Australian extremist cleric Musa Cerantonio was arrested in Cebu with a female companion, several days after he had boasted that he had arrived in Syria to support the Islamic State. The Philippines military said it is checking to see if the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters is receiving financial support from the al Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiyah.

Abdel Basit Usman, a bombmaker and wanted member of the Philippines-based, al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf Group, was recently spotted during a raid on a Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters camp on Mindanao; Philippines press reports had claimed he was killed in a drone strike in Pakistan in January 2010. Basit is said to be building bombs for the BIFF, possibly with funding from Jemaah Islamiyah, al Qaeda's regional affiliate in Southeast Asia. The BIFF rejected a peace treaty signed earlier this year between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

During a daylong battle in Basilan that began as an attempt to capture Abu Sayyaf commander Puruji Indama, three Islamist rebels and two soldiers were killed, and 29 soldiers were wounded. Abu Sayyaf is also suspected in the kidnapping of two people in Malaysia on April 2. Security forces killed two members of an Abu Sayyaf-linked kidnapping cell in Zamboanga and arrested six others, including a Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) commander and a policeman; four suspects escaped during the raid. President Aquino formally received a draft law regarding the autonomy of the Bangsamoro area from the MILF.

The government has signed a peace agreement with a Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the country's largest Muslim rebel group, giving greater autonomy to Muslim areas of Mindanao, to be called Bangsamoro, in exchange for the MILF's surrender of its weapons. The accord, reached after the loss of 120,000 lives in 40 years of conflict, and years of sporadic negotiations, does not include smaller Muslim insurgent groups such as the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and the al Qaeda-linked Islamist group Abu Sayyaf.

Government troops killed 17 Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in an offensive in Mindanao against the group, which has been trying to undermine the peace deal between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. The clash started yesterday when authorities attempted to arrest 25 BIFF members suspected of kidnapping and murder.

The government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front signed the final part of the Annex on Normalization, a 2012 peace plan, setting the stage for an agreement that allows the rebels to establish an autonomous state of Bangsamoro on the island of Mindanao in exchange for decommissioning their weapons. Jun Jalal Akilan, a.k.a. Temeng, an Abu Sayyaf militant suspected of kidnapping three teachers in 2009, was arrested in Zamboanga. Security forces clashed with some 50 New Peoples Army rebels in Zamboanga del Norte, after at least 40 NPA rebels took hostages in Zamboanga del Sur.

The government signed a peace deal with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, under which the group gives up its goal of an independent state in exchange for power and wealth-sharing in a new autonomous region. Two days earlier, MILF rebels attacked a police station in Marawi City, taking the police chief hostage, killing a civilian, and freeing a number of MILF prisoners; the MILF political affairs chief called it an isolated incident. A military official said the al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf is still holding 17 hostages in Sulu, including foreigners; a Jordanian hostage escaped or was released a few days ago.

Defense Secretary Gazmin claimed victory over the rebels in Zamboanga, but acknowledged that Habier Malik, the commander of the Moro National Liberation Front group that stormed the Mindanao port city three weeks ago, is still unaccounted for. The military said 18 soldiers, five police, and 12 civilians had been killed. Officials reported 375 rebels as either killed, captured, or surrendered during the standoff, and said all of the hostages have been accounted for. Security forces are hunting down remaining militants said to be hiding in several of the city's districts.

Some 100 Moro National Liberation Front rebels who launched an assault on Zamboanga over a week ago are still holding hostages; at least 116 hostages have been rescued. A senior police commander briefly taken hostage by a small group of rebels trying to surrender was freed. The military said that 12 troops have been killed and 115 wounded in clashes, and that 120 rebels have been killed. It also said 80 percent of the territory seized by the rebels has been reclaimed. Another report said 93 rebels have been captured or arrested.

The military claimed to have recaptured 70 percent of the territory seized by 200 militants from the Moro National Liberation Front and to have killed 51 militants, but about 100 militants are still holding some 100 hostages. As the standoff enters its second week, 82,000 people have been displaced and 850 houses have been destroyed in clashes. The military launched helicopter gunship attacks today, and the government is no longer conducting negotiations.