Philippine Army Hunting Islamic Militants Who Killed 23 Civilians

MANILA (DPA) — The Philippine military on Tuesday launched operations to hunt Islamist militants who killed 23 people including children as they were celebrating the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Eleven people were also injured in Monday's ambush on Jolo island, 1,000 kilometres south of Manila.

"We cannot allow the perpetrators of this gruesome crime to go free," said Lieutenant Colonel Ramon Zagala, a military spokesman.

The victims, including some village security volunteers, were travelling in two vehicles to a mosque for prayers when they were ambushed by suspected Muslim Abu Sayyaf rebels.

Authorities said the attack could be retaliation against the volunteers for supporting the government. Others said it could have been the result of a feud between a family of the victims and an Abu Sayyaf commander.