13 rebels killed in Philippines fighting


Cotabato City (The Philippines) : Thirteen Muslim separatist rebels were killed Tuesday in clashes in the southern Philippines, the military said.

Support TwoCircles

Ten guerrillas of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) were killed in a firefight in Mamasapano town in Maguindanao province, 960 km south of the Philippine capital Manila, it said.

Colonel Marlou Salazar, an army brigade commander, said the fighting occurred when soldiers encountered the rebels in a remote village in Mamasapano.

MILF spokesman Eid Kabalu said the military was conducting airstrikes on suspected rebel positions in three villages in Mamasapano. He denied that the rebel group suffered casualties.

Fighting between the MILF and the military has been going on since August, when the guerrillas launched a series of deadly attacks in the southern region of Mindanao.

The attacks by the MILF occurred after the Supreme Court stopped the signing of a land deal that would have expanded an autonomous Muslim region in Mindanao.

More than 200 people, including civilians, were killed in the attacks and subsequent clashes with the military.

Due to the hostilities, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo dissolved the government peace panel negotiating with the MILF and ordered a review of the peace talks with the rebel group.

Various organisations, including the Organization of Islamic Conference, have called on the government and the MILF to resume the stalled talks.

But Arroyo has stressed the government will return to the negotiating table only if the MILF disarms and demobilises its forces.