32 people killed in three days of fighting in Philippines

Other News Materials 26 September 2008 08:29 (UTC +04:00)

Thirty-one Muslim rebels and one soldier were killed in three days of fighting in the southern Philippines, military officials said Friday.

Nine Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels and one soldier were killed in clashes late Thursday in Datu Piang town in Maguindanao province, 960 kilometres south of Manila, said Major Peter Edwin Navarro, an army brigade spokesman, reported dpa.

Navarro said the fighting, which lasted until early evening, erupted when pursuing troops caught up with heavily armed MILF rebels in the village of Andavet. One soldier was also wounded in the fighting.

Lieutenant Colonel Julieto Ando, a regional army spokesman, said three more MILF rebels were also killed in a clash with security forces in Aleosan town in nearby North Cotabato province.

Ando said about 50 MILF rebels attacked a police convoy in the village of Sulok Thursday, triggering a running gunbattle that lasted until mid-afternoon. A policeman was wounded in the fighting.

Clashes between government troops and MILF rebels on Tuesday and Wednesday in the towns of Datu Saudi Ampatuan and Guindulungan, also in Maguindanao, resulted in the killing of 19 MILF rebels and the wounding of three soldiers, Navarro said.

But MILF spokesman Eid Kabalu denied the military's claim of the rebel death toll in those clashes, saying one MILF fighter was wounded and 10 soldiers were killed.

Kabalu also said two MILF rebels were killed in the fighting in Datu Piang while government security forces suffered 28 fatalities.

"The soldiers' fatalities were confirmed to us by civilians," he said.

Kabalu said several mosques in the area have been damaged in the fighting. Two army personnel carriers were also damaged, he said.

Government troops have intensified their military offensive against MILF rebels responsible for attacking towns and seizing villages in North Cotabato and nearby provinces last month.

The MILF attacks occurred after the Supreme Court stopped the signing of a deal that would have expanded the existing autonomous Muslim region on the strife-torn southern island of Mindanao.

More than 200 people were killed in subsequent clashes between government troops and MILF rebels and more than 500,000 displaced.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo dissolved the government peace panel negotiating with the MILF. She said peace negotiations would resume only when the rebel commanders responsible for the attacks were brought to justice.