A land mine exploded and wounded at least six soldiers Monday in a southern Philippine province where the army has been on alert since last month's killing of 19 special forces members by Muslim guerrillas.
A platoon of army scout rangers came under fire from unidentified men and then were hit by a land mine blast near mountainous Sumisip town in Basilan province. Two air force helicopters were deployed to evacuate the wounded soldiers, including two, who were in serious condition, army spokesman Maj. Harold Cabunoc said.
The soldiers have been hunting al-Qaida-linked Abu Sayyaf militants and allied gunmen who were blamed in the killing of five rubber plantation workers, including a militiaman, in Sumisip last month.
It was not immediately clear whether the country's largest Muslim rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, was involved in Monday's attack. It was blamed for the Oct. 18 killing of 19 soldiers in Basilan's Al-Barka town in one of the military's biggest battle losses in the region in years.
The Moro rebels accused the troops of encroaching into their Al-Barka stronghold in violation of a cease-fire. The troops denied that and say they were attacked when they were out to arrest a fugitive rebel commander.
The Oct. 18 clash erupted amid already-shaky peace talks between the Philippine government and the front, which is fighting for Muslim self-rule in the country's impoverished south.
Both sides have agreed to continue peace negotiations despite the bloody fighting in Al-Barka which was now being investigated by the government, rebels and a group of Malaysia-led foreign truce monitors.