MANILA, Philippines — Philippine troops clashed with Muslim guerrillas allied with the Islamic State group in the country’s south, leaving two soldiers and about 10 militants dead, military officials said Thursday.
An army infantry force raided a remote camp belonging to the Dawlah Islamiyah on Wednesday near Datu Salibo town in Maguindanao province, sparking an exchange of fire.
Gunmen in nearby areas reinforced the militants under army fire in the marshland, prolonging the battle and preventing government forces from capturing more members of the militant group led by rebel commander Hassan Indal, regional army spokesman Lt. Col. Dingdong Atilano said.
Two soldiers were killed and 13 others were slightly wounded in the clash, which left at least 10 militants dead, Atilano said, citing reports from troops and villagers.
Most of the militants broke off many years ago from the largest Muslim separatist group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. The rebel front’s leaders are now helping oversee a new Muslim autonomous region after signing a peace deal with the government in 2014.
Smaller armed groups, including the Dawlah Islamiyah and the Abu Sayyaf, which has been proclaimed a terrorist organization by the United States and the Philippines, have continued fighting the government in the south, homeland of the Muslim minority in the largely Catholic nation.
Separately, Philippine troops have been fighting one of the world’s longest communist insurgencies, which President Rodrigo Duterte wants to bring to an end during his last two years in office after peace negotiations repeatedly stalled.