Zamboanga City (Philippines) : Eight Marines were killed, four of them beheaded, in a fight with suspected Muslim Abu Sayyaf rebels in the southern Philippines, the military said Wednesday.
Nine marines were also wounded while six others were still missing after the eight-hour clash Tuesday in Tipo-Tipo town in Basilan province, 900 km south of Manila.
Lt Col Ariel Caculitan, a Marines spokesman, said four of the fatalities occurred during the fighting while the four others were beheaded by the Abu Sayyaf rebels.
The bodies of the four beheaded men were found early Wednesday near the encounter site. They were among those who went missing after the fighting.
"We were totally outnumbered and we have no time to recover any enemy casualties, but we have reports of dead and injured on their side," Caculitan said.
"We are trying to recover the remaining missing and also neutralize the group," he added.
The Marines, numbering about 50, had encountered around 300 Abu Sayyaf rebels while on an operation to verify reports that abducted Italian priest Giancarlo Bossi was being held in the province.
Bossi, 57, was abducted June 10 in Payao town in nearby Zamboanga Sibugay province. He was the third Italian priest kidnapped in the southern Philippines in the past 10 years.