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Nearly Two Dozen Philippine Soldiers Killed in Firefight with Abu Sayyaf

Philippine military officials say at least 23 soldiers are dead after a major offensive against Islamic militants Wednesday.

Soldiers attacked an Abu Sayyaf stronghold on the southern island of Basilan. Military officials say at least 20 Abu Sayyaf fighters were also killed in the raid on the camp, which served as a bomb making facility.

More than 300 Abu Sayyaf members are based in Basilan and the nearby island of Jolo. The group has been linked to several fatal attacks in recent years, including the 2004 bombing of a ferry that killed 16 people.

Abu Sayyaf has also been blamed for a series of kidnappings, including three International Red Cross workers on Jolo earlier this year. Observers say the abductions are a means of raising money through ransoms.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.