At least 17 killed in clashes in southern Philippines
Five soldiers and 12 Muslim rebels were killed in separate clashes in the southern Philippines, a regional military spokeswoman said Monday, dpa reported.
Fighting broke out Sunday between government troops and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) fighters, backed by al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf rebels in Albarka town, Basilan province, 900 kilometres south of Manila.
First Lieutenant Esteffani Cacho, a regional military spokeswoman, said five soldiers and nine MILF and Abu Sayyaf rebels were killed in the fighting, while 25 troopers were wounded.
Three Abu Sayyaf rebels were also killed on Sunday in a running gunbattle with government troops in the nearby island of Jolo. Eleven soldiers were wounded in the fighting, Cacho said.
Sporadic fighting continued Monday in Basilan as more government troops have been dispatched to the area to pursue the Abu Sayyaf and MILF rebels.
A local government official in Basilan said among those killed in Sunday's fighting in Albarka was the area's MILF commander.
Government troops have been conducting relentless military operations against Abu Sayyaf rebels on the islands of Basilan and Jolo for the past several years.
The MILF, which has been fighting for a separate Islamic state on the southern region of Mindanao, has denied having ties with the Abu Sayyaf.
Fighting between the MILF and the military escalated in August after the Supreme Court stopped the signing of a key agreement that would have expanded an existing Muslim autonomous region.