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4 MILF rebels killed in Zambo Sibugay offensive — AFP

Four Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels were killed as government troops on Monday bombed and attacked a suspected encampment of lawless elements in Payao town in Zamboanga Sibugay.

The military has so far lost two soldiers in the assault, according to Lt. Col. Randolph Cabangbang, spokesman of the Armed Forces’ Western Mindanao Command.

Cabangbang said four other soldiers were wounded and an estimated 40 enemies were likewise injured in the offensive launched to dismantle a criminal group under Juaning Abdulsalam, who also happened to be an MILF member.

Around noon Monday, OV-10 bombers did two runs at Sitio Taib in Barangay Labatan.

“The ground fire was intense, that’s why they (soldiers) requested for another strike," said Cabangbang, adding that a third bombing run was conducted around 4:30 p.m.

The attack was conducted in the wake of MILF attacks in different parts of Mindanao that resulted in the deaths of more than 30 people, most of them soldiers.


In Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City, the military’s main headquarters, Armed Forces chief Gen. Eduardo Oban said the assault was in accordance with President Benigno Aquino III’s order for the military and the police to go after lawless elements.

“The directive of the President is produce results as soon as practicable," he said at a press briefing on Monday.

President Aquino has rejected proposals to launch an all-out war with the MILF, which is talking peace with the government. Instead, he said government troops would only go after those involved in the recent attacks.

“I have instructed intensified operations against all these criminal elements. The mailed fist of the state will be brought to bear upon them so that justice may be served," Aquino said in a speech in Malacañang on Monday afternoon.

Asked if government troops would be entering the MILF’s Area of Temporary Stay (ATS) in their operations, Oban said: “For now, we’ll have to gather more intelligence before we launch calibrated plan of actions."

The ATS is a place designated by the government and the MILF Coordinating Committees on Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) where forces of the rebel group can stay to prevent encounters with troops pursuing Abu Sayyaf bandits. — KBK, GMA News
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