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The bodies were recovered from the C130 aircraft that crashed in Patikul, Sulu after it missed the runway, sources from AFP told Daily Tribune newspaper. There were three pilots, five crew members, and 84 Philippines Air Force personnel on board the plane, according to the AFP news agency.
In a statement, Major General William Gonzales said 17 personnel remained unaccounted for, while 50 were being treated in hospital.
He told reporters that at least 40 people had been rescued from the crashed plane and were now being treated.
The C-130 aircraft of the Philippine Air Force said “rescue efforts are ongoing” in a statement.
A picture published by ABS-CBN News on Twitter showed smoke and flames pouring from the broken fuselage.
Chief of Staff General Cirilito Sobejana said: “It’s very unfortunate.
17 bodies were reportedly recovered from the crash (Image: Philippine Emergency Alerts – PEA)
Philippines military personnel (Image: Getty)
“The plane missed the runway and it was trying to regain power but failed and crashed.”
The plane was transporting troops from southern Cagayan de Oro city, Mr Sobejana said.
Government forces have been battling Abu Sayyaf Islamist militants in the predominantly Muslim province of Sulu for decades.
Since 2014, it has proclaimed allegiance to the Islamic State group.
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There were reportedly 92 people onboard (Image: Philippine Emergency Alerts – PEA)
The Philippines armed forces have enjoyed recent success against the group – which is blamed for many terror attacks over recent years.
In March, Philippine troops killed the leader of the Abu Sayyaf kidnap-for-ransom group Majan Sahidjuan and rescued four Indonesian hostages held since last year.
Sahidjuan, also known by the alias Apo Mike, was severely wounded in a gunbattle with Philippine marines in southern Tawi-Tawi province and later died, Lieutenant General Corleto Vinluan Jr. said.
Sahidjuan was described as the mastermind in several kidnappings by Abu Sayyaf.
Abu Sayyaf Islamist militants are linked to Islamic State (Image: Getty)
Major General Corleto Vinluan said: “We are happy that all the hostages are safe now and we are also able to neutralize the notorious ‘Apo Mike’ and two of his comrades.”
Sahidjuan was among five Abu Sayyaf militants whose boat capsized while they were transporting four Indonesian kidnap victims.
This gave government troops the chance to rescue three of the four hostages – Arizal Kasta Miran, 30, Arsad Bin Dahlan, 41 and Andi Riswanto, 26.
The fourth, 15-year-old Mohd Khairuldin, was found by government troops in the same village where the gun battle took place.
Captured Abu Sayyaf Islamist militants (Image: Getty)
And just last month Philippine security forces rescued the daughter of suicide bombers from the militant group.
The girl, identified as Siti Aisyah Rullie, was reportedly the daughter of Indonesian nationals Rullie Rian Zeke, 35, and his wife Ulfah Handayani Saleh, 32.
They were behind the January 2019 attack on a cathedral in the southern island of Jolo that killed 23 people and wounded more than 100 others.
The cathedral bombing was the first suicide attack in the Philippines to involve a woman.
“She is estimated to be between 10 and 13 years of age,” Colonel Alaric Delos Santos, Western Mindanao Command spokesperson, told Arab News at the time.
“There is ongoing coordination with the Department and Social Services, and even with Indonesian authorities, to determine what to do with her.”