Twenty-five fighters are dead after clashes between rival Islamist militant groups in Mindanao.
The Philippine Army provided artillery support for the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) as it battled Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).
MILF has signed a peace agreement with the Government and agreed to help root out extremists, while BIFF has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (IS).
The MILF believes that the rise of hardline radical groups is undermining its quest for greater autonomy for Muslims in parts of Mindanao, to end nearly 50 years of conflict that has killed more than 120,000 people and displaced two million.
Speaking today (Monday, August 14), Army spokesman Colonel Gerry Besana said: “Based on reports from ceasefire monitors, the two sides suffered 25 casualties, including 20 from the IS-inspired group.”
He said 10 MILF were wounded and are now being treated at a military hospital.
The latest round of fighting broke out a week ago when BIFF attacked two villages in Maguindanao, killing five MILF fighters.
The MILF retaliated and clashes lasted six days, with the military firing howitzer cannons in support, Colonel Besana said.
“Nonsense armed struggle”
BIFF spokesman Abu Misri Mama described the clash as a “nonsense armed struggle.”
“It is not correct when Muslim mujahiddens fight each other,” he said.
A MILF official, who asked not to be named, said a “rido” [clan war] was now in effect between the BIFF and his group.
The government and MILF have agreed on a Bangsamoro Basic Law, which needs legislative approval, to create an autonomous region for the Moro minority in the Philippines with its own executive, legislature and fiscal powers.
The BIFF is a breakaway faction of the MILF that disagrees with the peace process and wants to fight for an independent Islamic State in the south.
There are concerns that the BIFF could ally itself with larger, more powerful militant group, Dawla Islamiya, better known as the Maute group.
The Maute group, with the support of other terrorist groups and foreign jihadis, has held out in Marawi City for more than 80 days, during which time 700 people have been killed and up to 600,000 displaced.
Army officials estimate that no more than 40 militants remain in Marawi, where they are holding scores of civilians as human shields.
Fears have been expressed that the terrorists might force the hostages — which include 20 women and 13 children — to be suicide bombers.