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Gov't troops continue assault against rebels to bring peace to S. Philippines

MAGUINDANAO, Philippines, Jan. 29 (Xinhua) -- Government security forces continued their assault against rebel group Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in southern Philippines to put an end to its criminal activities and to ensure that the rebels will not spoil the peace process.

As of 4 p.m. on Wednesday, helicopter gunships were seen attacking another camp of the BIFF in Maguindanao province.

This, after a military official confirmed that soldiers overran a camp of the BIFF in Ganta village, Shariff Saidona town where they made improvised bombs.

"We recovered twelve bodies at the site. There were also traces of new burial grounds," said Col. Dickson Hermoso, spokesman of the Philippine Army's 6th Infantry Division.

At least 40 BIFF members and one soldier were confirmed killed following four days of sporadic clashes in various towns in Maguindanao Province.

Fighting broke out on Jan. 26 after government security forces tried to serve warrants of arrest against BIFF personalities who were involved in kidnappings, killings, and other atrocities.

BIFF spokesman Abu Misry Mama said, however, that it was the soldiers who first opened fire at their camp in Ganta.

Clashes between the rebels and soldiers took place barely a day after the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Philippine government completed the annexes on the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) in Malaysia.

Philippine President Benigno S. Aquino III said the military operation against BIFF rebels is necessary to protect the people of Mindanao as well as the gains made in the ongoing peace process between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) .

"The Armed Forces of the Philippines is going on these operations to prevent the BIFF from inflicting harm on our populace and to seriously degrade their ability to again act as ( peace) spoilers," Aquino told reporters.

The forging of a final peace agreement between the Philippine government and the MILF is expected to end four decades of armed struggle in Mindanao.

The 1,000-strong BIFF, led by Ameril Umbra Kato, is the armed wing of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement (BIFM) which broke away from the MILF in 2010.

The rebel group has carried out deadly attacks in recent months in a bid to derail the ongoing peace negotiations between the MILF and the Philippine government.

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