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Philippine military says over 1,000 rebels killed

Philippine military says over 1,000 rebels killed

More than 1,000 Muslim separatist guerrillas have been killed in fighting in the southern Philippines over the past year, the military said Saturday, but a rebel leader denied the claim.
The government itself lost "more or less 30" soldiers in clashes since peace talks collapsed in August, said Col. Jonathan Ponce, spokesman for the military's 6th Infantry Division, which is involved in the operation against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
He disputed a report by the rebels earlier this week that more than 500 soldiers have been killed during that period. The rebels also said 20 guerrillas, 20 pro-government militiamen and 20 civilians have been killed.
"We would not have released (the rebel casualty figures) if they had not claimed that more than 500 of our soldiers have been killed," Ponce told the AP.
The rebels have been fighting for Muslim self-rule in the predominantly Roman Catholic nation's south for nearly four decades.
Both sides have largely respected a 2003 truce, but major gunbattles resumed after the Philippine Supreme Court ruled in August to scrap a preliminary peace deal that would have expanded an autonomous Muslim region on the main southern island of Mindanao.
There are no reliable independent casualty counts, but estimates of deaths in fighting since the rebellion began in the early 1970s range as high as 120,000.
Ponce said troops have recovered about 240 bodies of guerrillas, and the rest of the casualty figures were taken from operational and intelligence reports, which usually include accounts by civilians who see the dead rebels. Most the rebel casualties were in their 20s, but some were as young as 14 or 15, he said.
"We have enough proof ... we even have videos," he said. But he said the military did not want to show the footage because it might offend and anger Muslims.
Mohagher Iqbal, who was the chief rebel peace negotiator, denied the front lost that many fighters.
"Well, it's up to them," he said. "We cannot prevent them from putting out their figures."


Updated : 2021-10-27 03:26 GMT+08:00