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Suspected militants killed in Philippines

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Abu Sayyaf did not confirm raid
  • United States considers Abu Sayyaf a terrorist organization linked to al Qaeda
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(CNN) -- Marines killed seven suspected Abu Sayyaf members during a pre-dawn raid in the southern Philippines, state-run media reported.

The amphibious assault was carried out early Sunday in the town of Siasi, on the southern island of Sulu, said Lt. Col. Edgard Arevalo, a navy spokesman, according to the Philippine News Agency.

Abu Sayyaf does not routinely comment on such encounters and did not immediately confirm the raid or any losses.

The raid comes three weeks after marines killed Abu Sayyaf leader Albader Parad and five of his men during an assault in Maimbung. Parad led a number of high-profile kidnappings in Sulu, PNA reported.

"The people of Sulu could be another step closer to their longing for a lasting peace in the area after another successful" operation, Arevalo said.

Abu Sayyaf is one of several Islamic militant groups fighting the Philippine government to establish a separate state for the country's minority Muslim population.

The U.S. State Department considers it a terrorist organization and says it is linked to al Qaeda.

The Philippine government has been fighting to contain the group, which is blamed for several terrorist attacks in the country, including the bombing of a ferry in 2004 that left about 130 people dead.