At least 40 rebels killed in Philippines clashes
Army says child soldiers among those killed
At least 40 Islamist rebels have been killed as fighting between government troops and a breakaway rebel group in Mindanao entered its fifth day on Friday.
Army spokesman Colonel Dickson Hermoso, said some of the dead include child soldiers, while 12 rebels have been injured. A soldier was also reported killed and 13 others wounded.
The spokesman also said fighters from other armed groups have come to the aid of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) which is fighting for an independent homeland on Mindanao.
Sources who asked not to be named told ucanews.com that fighters belonging to the main rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and elements from the Moro National Liberation Front have broken ranks and aided the BIFF.
The military official said sporadic fighting was continuing in the villages of Bakat and Ganta in Shariff Saidona Mustapha town, and Damablas village in Datu Piang town in Maguindanao province.
"We're pursuing them and they splintered into smaller groups. As of now, there is sporadic fighting," Hermoso said.
Col Edgar Gonzales, commanding officer of the Army's 1st Mechanized Brigade, told ucanews.com that government troops have already occupied a portion of the rebel camp.
"We have overrun their strategic posts and their main supply route," said Gonzales, adding that some of the fighters are starting to abandon their position.
The fighting broke out on Monday in Sultan sa Barongis when government forces moved in to arrest BIFF fighters who face charges of murder and kidnapping.
Hermoso said the operation was approved by the MILF, the main rebel group in advanced negotiations with the government to end more than four decades of fighting on the island.
"We won’t stop, we will continue with the operations because the MILF itself requested us to finish off the BIFF so that they would have no problem later on," Hermoso said.
The BIFF is opposed to the peace negotiations.
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