Three government troops wounded in southern Philippine explosion

Philippines MapCotabato City, Philippines - An army sergeant and two government militiamen were wounded Friday when a homemade bomb exploded in the southern Philippines, a military spokesman said.

Colonel Julieto Ando said the explosion occurred early morning at a roadside between Mamasapano and Shariff Aguak towns in Maguindanao province, 960 kilometres south of Manila.

Ando said the bomb, made from two 81-millimetre mortar shells and triggered by a mobile phone, was believed to have been planted by Moro Islamic Liberation Front
(MILF) rebels.

"All the victims were in stable condition and were being treated in a nearby hospital," he said.

The military has been conducting an offensive against MILF rebels in Maguindanao since August, when the guerrillas launched a series of deadly attacks in the province and other areas.

More than 200 people were killed and over 500,000 displaced in the MILF attacks and subsequent fighting with government troops.

The hostilities erupted after the Supreme Court stopped the signing of a key territory deal that would have expanded an existing autonomous Muslim region on the strife-torn island of Mindanao.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo appointed earlier in the week a new chief negotiator with the MILF in a bid to re-start the stalled peace negotiations with the rebel group. (dpa)