Times Wire Reports

A Philippine general said 23 soldiers have been killed in fierce clashes that also left at least 20 Al Qaeda-linked militants dead in the country's restive south.

Regional military commander Maj. Gen. Benjamin Dolorfino said about 400 army, marine and police commandos launched simultaneous, predawn attacks on two Abu Sayyaf extremist group encampments on Basilan island, sparking fierce fighting that continued to rage late in the day.

Dolorfino said today that 20 marines and three soldiers, including two officers, were killed in the clashes.

Military officials say troops targeted Abu Sayyaf chieftains Khair Mundus and Furuji Indama, but it was not immediately clear if they were among the slain militants.

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