A Philippine Air Force MG520 attack helicopter flies over Saturday, February 21, 2009 in Zamboanga City in Mindanao, where government soldiers clash with dozens of suspected Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels in Curuan district leaving a still undetermined number of gunmen dead and wounded. (Mindanao Examiner Photo)
ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Feb. 21, 2009) – Government troops clashed with suspected Moro rebels on Saturday in the outskirts of Zamboanga City in the southern Philippines, officials said.
Officials said the fighting left a still undetermined number of gunmen, believed to be members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the country's largest Muslim rebel group fighting for independence in the troubled region.
"We have recovered an M16 automatic rifle and a MILF uniform. There could be more casualties on the enemy side. There are blood trails," Army Col. Santiago Baluyot, commander of an anti-terror task force, told the Mindanao Examiner.
He said the fighting erupted in Curuan district near Zamboanga del Norte province, about 80 kilometers east of Zamboanga City, after troops foiled an attack at an army detachment in the area.
Troops also fired several rounds of mortars on enemy targets, he said.
"We have received intelligence reports as early as Friday that rebels are going to attack the detachment and so we beefed up our forces in the area and fighting erupted Saturday," Baluyot said.
He said villagers also helped in repelling the attack. He did not elaborate, but there were no reports of military or civilian casualties.
The military's Western Mindanao Command in Zamboanga City said as many as 100 gunmen clashed with the soldiers.
Last month, troops were also deployed near Curuan after 15 gunmen abducted and killed four civilians. One villager was also wounded, but managed to escape from the gunmen.
Suspected MILF rebels also torched a dump truck owned by Bendimil Construction and a backhoe owned by ESR Construction in Zamboanga del Norte province, where the rebels are actively operating. (Mindanao Examiner)