At least eight jihadis were killed in a series of clashes with the Philippine military in the Maguindanao province of Mindanao.
Armoured vehicles and artillery were used against some 50 militants from the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) on Thursday (March 8), Army spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Gerry Bisana said.
As we recently reported, the military fears that terrorists linked to the Islamic State have renewed an armed campaign to set up a caliphate in the largely Muslim south.
An attempt to take over the city of Marawi last year was put down after four months of fierce fighting that left more than 1,100 people dead and the city flattened.
It is believed that survivors of the siege have recruited a fresh force of about 200 gunmen, according to the military, with President Duterte recently warning they could attack other Mindanao cities.
Lt-Col Bisana said troops recovered the bodies of eight fighters, although they believe the militants carried off another 15 casualties.
He added that one soldier was also wounded in the fighting near the town of Datu Saudi Ampatuan.
“Soldiers have been vigilantly guarding the entire central Mindanao in order to constrict the firefight in specific areas, and continue to pursue the remnants of the terror group,” regional military chief Major-General Arnel dela Vega said.
The BIFF is a splinter group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which signed a peace treaty with Manila in 2014 after a decades-long armed campaign that claimed more than 100,000 lives.
The MILF has echoed the president’s warnings in recent months, as the two sides pushed to get Congress to pass a Muslim self-rule law.