At least 23 government soldiers and more than 20 extremists were killed on Wednesday in a day-long clash in the southern Philippines.

The bodies of the 23 soldiers and 20 Abu Sayyaf rebels were recovered after fierce fighting on August 12, in the town of Ungkaya Pukan in the southern island of Basilan, said regional commander, Maj. Gen. Benjamin Dolorfino.

The fighting broke out as the military overran an Abu Sayyaf camp and found numerous home-made bombs, ready for detonation. They also recovered 13 high-powered firearms, the general said.

At least four wounded soldiers were seen being flown in by helicopter to the southern city of Zamboanga.

Soldiers who brought the dead bodies back to Zamboanga City said many of their slain comrades had apparently been hit by sniper fire.

Fighting has ceased but troops are still clearing the area to ensure no insurgents remain, Maj. Gen. Dolorfino said. Soldiers are also still pursuing other Abu Sayyaf members, he added.

Intelligence agencies have said the Al-Qaeda network of Osama bin Laden helped in the formation of the Abu Sayyaf group more than a decade ago.

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