Seven Philippine ex-rebels killed by IS-linked gunmen

MANILA (AFP) – Seven former rebels have been killed in the southern Philippines, military and police authorities said yesterday, in an attack claimed by the Islamic State (IS) group.

They said the dead were all members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), formerly the country’s largest guerrilla group which began decommissioning weapons last month under the terms of a 2014 peace treaty.

A pro-IS armed group called Dawlah Islamiyah attacked an MILF camp near the town of Shariff Saydona on Friday, sparking fighting lasting several hours, said Lieutenant-Colonel Ernesto Gener, commander of a local army battalion.

IS claimed responsibility in a communique seen by SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors extremists activity.

The extremists said eight MILF members were killed, but local police commander Lieutenant-Colonel Arnold Santiago told reporters the authorities were only aware of seven deaths.

Locals said they saw seven bodies being loaded onto a boat at a riverbank in Shariff Saydona, about 900 kilometres south of Manila. MILF spokesman Von al Haq declined to comment. The MILF peace pact ended decades of rebellion that had claimed 150,000 lives by government estimates in the Mindanao region.