Philippine military says troops killed 16 Muslim rebels

Philippine military says troops killed 16 Muslim rebels Manila  - Sixteen Muslim separatist rebels were killed in clashes with government troops in the southern Philippines, the military said Tuesday.

Lieutenant Colonel Benedict Arevalo, an army commander, said the military did not suffer any casualties during the two clashes with Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels on Monday.

But MILF spokesman Eid Kabalu said the rebel group recorded 23 soldiers dead in the fighting in Wao town in Lanao del Sur province, 810 kilometres south of Manila.

Arevelao said 10 MILF guerrillas were slain in the fighting, which erupted when troops encountered up to 200 rebels who were allegedly planning an attack.

Attack helicopters shelled rebel positions in support of ground troops during Monday's fighting, which lasted for about six hours.

In Midsayap town in North Cotabato province, 960 kilometres south of Manila, government soldiers killed six MILF guerrillas in a separate clash, also on Monday.

Arevalo said the rebels attacked a military base in the village of Rangaban in Midsayap, triggering the gunbattle.

The military has been conducting offensives against three MILF commanders who seized villages and attacked towns in several provinces in the strife-torn southern region of Mindanao in August.

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

More than 200 people have been killed in subsequent clashes between the MILF and the military. More than 500,000 civilians have been displaced.

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. (dpa)