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Fighting in Southern Philippines Kills at Least 20 Soldiers

09 August 2007

Philippine military officials say fighting between Muslim rebels and government forces on a southern island has killed at least 20 soldiers.

Suspected Abu Sayyaf militants ambushed a convoy of troops Thursday, killing at least 10 soldiers and wounding two others. The attack took place near the town of Maimbung, on the southern island of Jolo.

Another 10 soldiers were killed later in the day during a gunbattle, also near Maimbung.

The clashes are the latest in a recent wave of violence in the southern Philippines.

Troops have been massing in the southern part of the country since early July when 14 marines were killed on the nearby island of Basilan. Ten of them were beheaded.

The military and government have blamed Abu Sayyaf and another rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), for the beheadings.

The United States considers Abu Sayyaf a terrorist group with ties to the radical Jemaah Islamiyah organization. Philippine forces have been on the offensive against Abu Sayyaf since 2005, fighting primarily on the island of Jolo.

The MILF has been fighting for self-rule on Basilan for nearly three decades. In 2003, the government signed a truce agreement with the group, but clashes continue.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.

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