This photo taken on July 22, 2017 shows Philippine Marines patrolling a deserted street at the front-line in Marawi on the southern island of Mindanao. (Photo: AFP/VNA)

Hanoi (VNA) – At least 44 pro-Islamic State (IS) militants have been killed in clashes between government troops and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in the southern Philippines, said an Filipino army spokesman on March 11.

The fighting, that started on March 8, continues, said Lt. Col. Gerry Besana, adding that it has killed at least 44 militants and wounded 26 others so far.

On March 9, the Philippines’ army claimed that at least 12 insurgents have been killed in a clash between its troops and about 50 BIFF insurgents in southern Philippines a day earlier.

The military offensive broke out on March 8 morning in Salbu village of Date Saudi Ampatuan town in Magunindanao province, and then spread to nearby villages in Datu Saudi and Datu Unsay. The number of the BIFF swelled to about 100, prompting the troops to call for reinforcement.

Some 23 rebels and a Philippine soldier have also been wounded in the clash.

The Philippine army has cooperated with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in stepping up operations against the BIFF since August 2017.

The MILF signed a peace accord with the government in 2014 while the BIFF, a MILF splinter group, opposed the pact. Like Abu Sayyaf and Maute Groups, the BIFF has also pledged allegiance to the self-claimed Islamic State (IS).-VNA