MANILA — Philippine troops killed 57 Muslim rebels in a five-day offensive against forces opposed to a peace deal aimed at ending decades of Islamist insurgency in the country’s troubled south, an army spokesman said Friday.
One soldier was also killed and 13 wounded in five days of fighting between the military and members of a breakaway faction of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in Maguindanao province, 960 kilometres south of Manila.
Three of the killed guerrillas were teenagers, according to Colonel Dickson Hermoso, an army division spokesman.
“We strongly denounce the used of child soldiers,” he said “They should be in school and not in the battle ground.”
The offensive was launched two days after the MILF agreed to decommission its forces in a key agreement signed with the government in Kuala Lumpur. The agreement was the last of four annexes to a preliminary peace deal signed by the two sides in October 2012.
President Benigno Aquino said the offensive aimed to “seriously degrade (the) abilities (of the breakaway faction) to again act as spoilers” in the peace deal, which calls for the creation of a new Muslim autonomous entity under a law to be approved by Congress.
The new entity, to be called Bangsamoro or Muslim Nation, would have substantive control over natural resources and wealth and revenues generated in the southern region of Mindanao.