30 soldiers killed in two months of clashes in southern Philippines
Thirty soldiers and eight pro-government militiamen were killed in nearly two months of clashes with Muslim secessionist rebels in the southern Philippines, a military spokesman said Wednesday, reported dpa.
Lieutenant Colonel Ernesto Torres said 146 more soldiers and 10 pro-government militiamen were wounded in the fighting with Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) guerrillas that started on August 10. Torres said the military is expecting an escalation of clashes with the MILF rebels as the Islamic holy month of Ramadan ended on Tuesday. On Monday, seven soldiers, including an officer, were killed in clashes with MILF rebels in Datu Piang town in Maguindanao province, 960 kilometres south of Manila. Twelve soldiers were wounded in the fighting. "Judging from the incidents during the past days, I expect an escalation of incidents," he said. "As we press on with the operations, we are expecting more encounters." Torres said the military do not keep track of the casualties suffered by the MILF, but noted that the capability of the Muslim guerrillas have been degraded. "We have severely degraded their manpower and their capability to launch more attacks," he said. The military has been intensifying operations against three MILF commanders who seized villages and attacked towns in several provinces in the strife-torn southern region of Mindanao in August. The MILF attacks occurred after the Supreme Court stopped the signing of a land deal that would have expanded the autonomous Muslim region in Mindanao. More than 200 people have been killed in subsequent clashes between the MILF and the military. More than 500,000 civilians have been displaced. President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo dissolved the government peace panel negotiating with the MILF. She vowed not to resume peace talks with the rebel group until those responsible for the attacks have been brought to justice.