Muslim fighters kill 7 soldiers in Philippine south
Muslim insurgents killed at least seven Philippine soldiers and wounded a dozen more in an ambush.
Muslim insurgents killed at least seven Philippine soldiers and wounded a dozen more in an ambush on Sunday on the troubled southern island of Mindanao, the military said.
The attack came four days after government troops halted a fierce offensive against Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels in another part of Mindanao and is the latest outbreak of violence since a territorial deal with the MILF was halted by the Supreme Court earlier this month.
The military said the soldiers, traveling in a convoy, were on their way to deliver troop salaries to a remote detachment when they were ambushed by around 100 MILF rebels, armed with rocket-propelled grenades and machineguns.
"Our troops were taken by complete surprise," Colonel Reynaldo Ardo, an army brigade commander in Lanao del Sur province, told reporters.
"Our boys were never given a chance to fight back. After 10 minutes of heavy gunfire, the insurgents withdrew to a nearby wooded area."
Four regular soldiers and three part-time troopers were killed in the first volley of machinegun fire. A dozen other troopers were wounded as they sought cover behind the wrecked trucks and van.
Last week, air force planes bombed MILF positions for four straight days, triggering an exodus of around 160,000 people in seven towns in North Cotabato. Manila had accused the guerrillas of occupying Catholic farms in the area.
Analysts have said both sides were flexing their military muscles after the Supreme Court's temporary halting of the territorial deal marked another setback in long-running talks to end a separatist conflict that has killed over 120,000 people.
Legal experts expect the court will rule that the agreement, which gives a future government of an expanded Muslim homeland wide political and economic powers, is unconstitutional.
A spike in violence is expected following such a ruling but an all-out war is not considered likely as neither side has the resources to deliver a knockout blow.
Reuters Last Mod: 18 Ağustos 2008, 12:41