"Although there are no significant engagements today, what our troops are conducting are sustained artillery strikes towards known positions of the Abu Sayyaf group and this is due to the data and information that the troops were able to obtain," Mr. Padilla said.

Aerial operations are also part of the military offensive, although Mr. Padilla declined to give further details.

Among those killed in the clashes which started last Saturday were Mohammad Khattab, a Moroccan bomb expert believed to have been training the bandits. Mr. Padilla said Abu Sayyaf leaders Furuji Indama and Amah Hapilon have been critically wounded.

A report by Agence France-Presse said the United States has placed a reward of five million dollars on Hapilon for his role in the kidnapping of three Americans in 2001, two of whom later died.

This puts Saturday's military offensive in the context of the Jan. 25, 2015 Mamasapano operation, which was also an anti-terror campaign against internationally wanted Islamic militants.

Fighting erupted when troops from the Philippine Army's 44th Infantry Battalion clashed with more than a hundred Abu Sayyaf fighters in the island province of Basilan.

Eighteen soldiers were reported killed the next day, the biggest loss so far to the military in its campaign against terrorism in the southern Philippines.

Source: Business World