Manila: Philippine military officials say more than 100 breakaway Muslim rebels have launched attacks against army troops, sparking clashes that killed at least five soldiers and seven insurgents in a volatile southern region.
Regional army spokesman Capt Anthony Bulao says the daylong clashes involving the hardline Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters erupted yesterday in the marshy hinterlands of Datu Piang town in Maguindanao province and in a nearby village in North Cotabato province.
Army forces were firing artillery rounds against the rebels in Maguindanao today. Hundreds of villagers fled Datu Piang after the clashes broke out.
Bulao says the breakaway rebels want to disrupt peace talks between the Philippine government and the main Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which resume tomorrow in Malaysia.