MANILA, May 31 (Xinhua) -- A Dutch man held hostage by Abu Sayyaf militants since 2012 was shot dead on Friday while trying to escape during a rescue operation launched by Philippine security forces in the jungles of Patikul town in the southern Sulu province.

Army Brig. Gen. Divino Rey Pabayo, commander of the Task Force Sulu, said Dutch bird watcher Ewold Horn was shot during a clash that broke out at 7:41 a.m. local time in the remote village of Pansul, Patikul.

Pabayo said six Abu Sayyaf terrorists were killed while 12 others wounded in the crossfire, and eight soldiers were also wounded in the clash.

"Military troops established blockade and encountered (Abu Sayyaf leader Radullan) Sahiron's group, composed of 30 fighters, at 7:41 a.m. today, leading to more than an hour of a gunfight that killed six bandits and wounded 12 more," Pabayo said.

"After an hour and thirty minutes of the gun battle, troops recovered the remains of Horn and that of Mingayan Sahiron, the second wife of the Abu Sayyaf top leader," he added.

Abu Sayyaf terrorists abducted Horn in Panglima Sugala in Tawi-Tawi in February 2012.

"Horn was shot by one of his guards when he tried to escape from the Abu Sayyaf during this morning's gunfight," Pabayo said, adding that the body of Horn was found near a river.

Col. Gerry Besana, spokesperson for the military's Western Mindanao Command, said additional troops were sent to the area to conduct pursuit operations against the fleeing militants.

Besana said the militants are still holding a Vietnamese and three Filipino kidnap victims in Sulu, but the military is not sure if these people are still alive.

In April, an Indonesian hostage managed to escape from the Abu Sayyaf captors during a rescue operation launched by Philippine marines. Another Indonesian hostage drowned, while a Malaysian was shot in the back while escaping.

Abu Sayyaf militants are a collection of armed criminals operating mainly in the southernmost island provinces of Basilan and Sulu.

The group gained notice in the southern Philippines in the early 1990s. It acquired worldwide notoriety with a series of kidnappings and beheadings.

Philippine authorities referred to the Abu Sayyaf group as nothing more than a collection of bandits.

The Duterte government has formed an entire army division to hunt down the militants blamed for a series of kidnapping and bombings in the southern region, including the Jan. 27 twin bombings in a church in Jolo, Sulu that killed 26 and injured more than 100.