The Abu Sayyaf gunmen, estimated at around 50, waylaid about 40 people, including children, who were on board two vehicles at around 8.30 a.m. in Lumapid village in Talipao town of Sulu, said Martin Pinto, commander of the Sulu-based 2nd Marine Brigade of the government troops.
The victims, accompanied by 10 Barangay (village) Police Action Team (BPAT) members, were on their way to a nearby village to celebrate the Eid ul-Fitr, which marks the end of the observance of Ramadan.
The 19 fatalities included 13 females and six males, including some children, Xinhua reported.
Pinto said marine soldiers reached the scene of the incident and helped in extricating the dead and wounded victims. Soldiers were also deployed to conduct pursuit operations.
Rowena Muyuela, spokeswoman of the military's Western Mindanao Command in Zamboanga City said: "This is the retaliatory action of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) against the BPAT members who are supporting the AFP and Philippine National Police (PNP) in the conduct of law enforcement operations. That is the reason...."
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Public Affairs Office Chief Ramon Zagala said: "The AFP condemns this heinous atrocity that victimised innocent civilians. This attack cannot be justified by any ideology and shows the Abu Sayyaf's terrorist nature."
The 380-strong Abu Sayyaf group, founded in the early 1990s, is a violent Muslim terrorist group operating in the southern Philippines. The ASG operates mainly in Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi provinces in the Sulu archipelago and has a presence in Mindanao.
Since its inception in 1991, the Abu Sayyaf group has engaged in terrorism for an independent caliphate in the Philippines.