At least 31 Muslim rebels and 5 soldiers were killed in clashes as peace talks aimed at ending a decades-old rebellion are set to resume. The military says the splinter guerrilla group Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters set off a roadside bomb as a military truck drove past in Datu Piang, killing 3 soldiers. The rebels simultaneously attacked an army detachment in another section of the town, killing two other soldiers. BIFF spokesman Abu Misry confirms his group was behind Saturday’s attacks. Regional military commander Maj Gen Romeo Gapuz says “The BIFF is hell-bent on derailing the peace talks by launching simultaneous attacks against civilian and military installations.” Gapuz says the armed forces are pursuing the attackers. 6th Division spokesman Col. Dickson Hermoso confirms soldiers penetrated Ganta in Shariff Saydona Mustapha, a BIFF stronghold, resulting in heavy casualties on the enemy side. The fighting occurred before the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the country’s largest Muslim guerrilla force, were to resume talks in Malaysia Monday, July 8. The peace talks aim to create an autonomous region for the Muslim minority in Mindanao in the south.
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