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Philippines clashes kill dozens

Philippines clashes kill dozens

Forty-three elite police commandos were killed by Muslim insurgents in the southern Philippines Sunday, when they were ambushed while pursuing “high value” terrorist bomb makers.

The commandos, members of the elite Special Action Force (SAF) unit of the Philippine National Police, were killed in a firefight that raged for 12 hours in Mamasapano town, Maguindanao Province, said police deputy director general Leonardo Espina.

Eleven police commandos had also been wounded in the firefight, he told a press conference in Cotabato City Monday.

Members of both the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), with whom the government has signed a peace agreement, and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), with whom it has not, were involved in the firefight, officials and rebel groups said.

Grisly footage purporting to be of the aftermath of the battle was circulated online, showing uniformed bodies strewn in a rice field.

 “This is the single largest loss of life in recent memory,” Secretary of the Department of Interior and Local Government Mar Roxas told the press conference, calling for a moment of silence from assembled reporters.

“These SAF operatives are fallen heroes. They were just doing their job… That is why we salute them.”

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