Fleeing rebels clash with Filipino troops, 1 dead
MANILA, Philippines — More than 100 members of a breakaway Muslim rebel group fleeing from a two-week army offensive clashed anew with soldiers Thursday in new violence that killed a villager and wounded three others in the southern Philippines, officials said.
About 15 Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement fighters, who were backed by about 100 other gunmen positioned nearby, fired grenades on an army detachment along a highway in Pikit town in North Cotabato province early Thursday, sparking a gunbattle, Army Lt. Col. Benjamin Hao said.
A soldier and a militiaman were wounded. The gunmen also fatally shot a villager in the head while he was using his cellular phone in front of his house, and the rebels may have killed him because they suspected he was calling authorities for help. A nurse working in a nearby hospital was wounded in the leg by stray gunfire, police said.
The new rebel group broke off last year from the larger Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which is engaged in peace talks with the Philippine government. The rebel faction opposes years of Malaysian-brokered negotiations and wanted to continue waging a bloody rebellion for an independent homeland for minority Muslims in the south of the predominantly Roman Catholic Philippines.
The breakaway rebels attacked several army camps two weeks ago in southern Maguindanao province, near North Cotabato, sparking an army offensive and sporadic clashes that have killed four soldiers and scores of rebels. The large group of rebels in Pikit may have been looking for food and refuge after their Maguindanao encampments were captured by army troops, Hao said.
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