MANILA – Heavy fighting in the southern Philippines between police and Muslim rebels on Sunday left at least 30 elite policemen dead, a military spokesman said.
Col. Restituto Padilla said the clashes happened at a remote camp of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in Mamasapano town in Maguindanao Province.
He said Army soldiers were deployed to the site and have so far retrieved nine bodies out of the 30 slain policemen.
“The military helped in extricating police casualties of this morning’s encounter while the police conducted operations against lawless elements and in carrying out a warrant of arrest,” Padilla said.
He said the policemen were sent to the area to serve an arrest warrant against a rebel member allegedly involved in a bombing incident, but did not elaborate.
Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas confirmed that 26 members of the Philippine National Police Special Action Force were killed while pursuing a high-value target involved in bomb attacks in Mindanao.
Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina, officer in charge of the Philippine National Police, said that pursuit operations are underway to catch the “lawless elements” involved in the “encounter.”
“We mourn the loss of some police commandos of the PNP SAF,” Espina said in a statement.
“Operational information from the field are still sketchy at the moment but what we know so far is that there is an ongoing operation in the area against a high-value target believed to be behind the recent spate of bombings in central Mindanao,” he added.
He also said, “The priority concern at the moment is the medical evacuation and treatment of the wounded and extraction of the casualties from the battle zone.”
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