MANILA Feb 1 Philippine troops overran a base
of a breakaway faction of Muslim rebel group in a week-long
offensive aimed at removing potential spoilers for peace talks
with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), an army spokesman
said on Saturday.
But the rebels hit back, detonating two roadside bombs while
an army convoy passed by, injuring six soldiers and six
civilians including two crew from a local television station.
The army launched the offensive that killed 52 guerrillas of
the al-Qaeda-linked Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters,(BIFF) a
day after the government and the mainstream rebel group agreed
on a final roadmap for peace talks which were originally agreed
in October 2012.
The breakaway rebel group opposes the peace talks and the
offensive was seen as removing potential obstacles to it by
preempting possible attacks on civilian communities in the
On Friday, army spokesman Colonel Dickson Hermoso said they
had captured the main operating base of the BIFF in Maguindanao
A rebel spokesman claimed they killed three soldiers in the
bomb attack the following day but they did not intend to harm
"The military convoy was a legitimate target, we do not want
to harm members of the press," Abu Misry Mama said in a
Hermosa said on Saturday that the injured were airlifted to
a nearby hospital and were all safe.
Last week, the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation
Front (MILF) signed the fourth and final annex of the peace
agreement in Kuala Lumpur.
The deal hopes to end 40 years of conflict in the south and
set up a Bangsamoro government in the Muslim areas in south of
the mainly Roman Catholic country. Bangsamoro refers to Muslims
and non-Muslim natives of Mindanao.
A small faction of the rebel group broke away three years
ago to continue the armed struggle to gain independence from the
central government in Manila. The group allied themselves with
al-Qaeda to conduct extortion and bombing activities in the
south, threatening the peace process.
(Reporting By Manuel Mogato; Editing by Kim Coghill)