At least 17 feared dead after military plane crashes in southern Philippines; 40 rescued
Photo Credit: Twitter/@AlertsPea

The Philippine defence secretary says at least 17 people have been killed and 40 rescued in the crash of a Philippine air force C-130 aircraft carrying troops in a southern province.

Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said rescue efforts are ongoing. He said the aircraft had 92 people on board, including three pilots and five crew. The rest were army personnel.

The plane was transporting troops from southern Cagayan de Oro city. Government forces have been battling Abu Sayyaf militants in the predominantly Muslim province of Sulu for decades. It was not immediately clear what caused the crash.

It has been raining in the central Philippines but it was not immediately clear if the weather in the Sulu region has been affected. The airport in Sulu's main town of Jolo is located a few kilometers (miles) from a mountainous area where troops have battled the Abu Sayyaf. Some militants have aligned themselves with the Islamic State group.

The United States and the Philippines have separately blacklisted the Abu Sayyaf as a terrorist organisation for bombings, ransom kidnappings and beheadings. It has been considerably weakened by years of government offensives but remains a threat.

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