Nine people including four members of the Philippine security forces were killed Tuesday in clashes with 10 suspected members of the Abu Sayyaf kidnap group on the resort island of Bohol, authorities said.
The incursion would be the first on a key Philippine tourist destination in recent years by the group which pledges allegiance to the Islamic State and often targets foreigners in the lawless southern Mindanao region.
Five gunmen were killed, and four assault rifles and an improvised explosive device were recovered in the fighting on Bohol island, officials said.
The incident took place in a remote area, with local officials saying the militants had used fast boats to reach a village where they squared off against security forces who went to investigate.
US and Australian embassies had warned their citizens this week about possible kidnappings by "terrorist groups" specifically on Bohol and Cebu islands.
"The US Embassy has received unsubstantiated yet credible information that terrorist groups may attempt to conduct kidnappings in Central Visayas, which includes both Cebu and Bohol provinces," the US advisory said.
Security forces have been on alert for "potential activity on the part of some lawless elements" during the peak Easter tourist season, military spokesman Brigadier-General Restituto Padilla said.
"Our forces who were acting on this information were able to engage these lawless armed groups that are believed to be part of the Abu Sayyaf group from Mindanao," he said on ABS-CBN television.
Bohol is a mere 30 minutes' boat ride away from the major port of Cebu on Cebu island, which is also among the country's top tourist draws. The attack came as millions of Filipinos head to resort locations for the holidays.
Bohol is famous among foreign tourists who swim with docile whale sharks and marvel at tiny primates called tarsiers, go on cruises aboard boats on crystal-clear rivers and lounge on its beaches.
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