Scores of guerrillas were believed killed after government troops overran a Muslim rebel camp in the southern Philippines, the military claimed here Sunday.
Army spokesmen said troops began a massive offensive last Monday, pounding with artillery the Moro Islamic Liberation Front's (MILF) camp at Bushra in the town of Butig in the southern province of Lanao del Sur.
Running gun battles had raged for the past five days, regional army spokesman Colonel Hilario Atendido said here.
Initial reports from the field indicated at least 10 rebels were killed, but the number of fatalities could have risen on Saturday when Bushra fell, Atendido said.
"An intercepted enemy message indicated many guerrillas were killed and wounded in the shelling," Atendido said.
"Troops shelled and assaulted the place and eventually occupied again the area from MILF forces."
Bushra was one of the MILF's largest territories in the south until government troops captured it in a massive assault early this year. MILF forces had returned to the area and begun re-establishing satellite camps.
An MILF official claimed guerrillas also killed more than 20 soldiers during the clashes, a claim dismissed by Atendido as propaganda.
Atendido said scout rangers penetrated the rebels' main position by late Saturday after seven hours of bombardment.
Recovered from the site were rounds of ammunition and assorted firearms, including anti-tank rockets and machine guns, he said.
There was no actual body count, but messages intercepted on radio and "bloodstains all over the place" indicated scores of rebels had been wounded or killed, Atendido said.
The MILF is the country's largest remaining Muslim insurgent group, waging a 22-year armed campaign for the establishment of an independent Islamic state in the south.
Peace talks between the government and the guerrillas collapsed early this year, although Manila has said it may resume negotiations with the MILF next year -- ZAMBOANGA (AFP)
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