Thirteen Muslim rebels, one soldier killed in southern Philippines

Philippines FlagCotabato City, Philippines - Thirteen Muslim separatist rebels and one soldier were killed in a firefight in the southern Philippines on Tuesday, the military said.

Eight soldiers were also wounded in the clash in Datu Saudi Ampatuan town in Maguindanao province, 930 kilometres south of Manila, brigade commander Colonel Marlou Salazar said.

The four-hour fight began when Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels opened fire at the soldiers who were sent to verify reports of gunmen harassing residents in the town, he said.

Regional army spokesman lieutenant Colonel Julieto Ando said there were also reports that MILF rebels led by a commander identified as Wahid Tundok were planning attacks on military targets.

He said Tundok is an aide of Ombra Kato, a top rebel commander wanted by the government for a series of deadly attacks in the southern region of Mindanao in August.

More than 200 people were killed in those attacks and subsequent clashes between guerrillas and soldiers. More than 500,000 people were also displaced at the height of the hostilities.

The MILF launched the attacks after the Supreme Court blocked the signing of a territorial agreement that would have expanded an existing autonomous Muslim region in Mindanao. (dpa)