Five separatist rebels killed in southern Philippines

COTABATO CITY, PHILIPPINES (BNO NEWS) -- At least five suspected rebels were killed on Thursday afternoon during a clash with government militiamen in the southern Philippines, police said on Friday.

The militiamen led by village chair Hermogenes Obrigue were patrolling near the town of Tulunan in North Cotabato province on Thursday afternoon when they clashed with Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels.

According to the Philippine Daily Inquirer, some 50 rebels attacked the militiamen, injuring the village chief and two others. The rebels withdrew after more than three hours of fighting, during which at least five rebels were killed.

The clash came as government and MILF negotiators met in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur to discuss recent clashes between rebels and soldiers in the provinces of Basilan and Zamboanga Sibugay that killed nearly 50 people.

Last week, more than 10,000 civilians were force to flee their homes as aerial strikes and ground assaults targeting rebels entrenched at a remote village in Zamboanga Sibugay province continued.

The government said the fighting and the evacuations were an offshoot of a military operation against 'lawless elements' engaged in kidnappings. However, Muslim rebels have alleged their forces have been attacked as well.

The MILF entered into peace negotiations with the government in 1997, but despite a ceasefire agreement, the southern Philippines continues to see violence. The rebel group has been fighting against the Government of the Philippines since 1977 for the establishment of an independent Islamic state in the southern Philippines.

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