Twelve people, including two soldiers, have been killed and 13 soldiers wounded in a clash between government forces and terrorists in Maguindanao province in the southern Philippines, an army spokesman said on Thursday.

Lieutenant Colonel Anhouvic Atilano said the troops were tracking down Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) leader Hassan Indal, who was reportedly sighted with gunmen in a village near Datu Salibo town at around 5:30 a.m. local time when troops encountered some 20 terrorists.

As fighting lasted for six hours and intensified, the military troops decided to withdraw from the battle after the military noticed that BIFF sent reinforcements to fight the troops.

Atilano said an undetermined number of terrorists were also injured in the clash.

“Military pursuit operations are ongoing but locals confirmed that the retreating BIFF radicals have carted away their dead comrades,” Atilano told reporters.

The BIFF, composed of around 200 to 300 men, are blamed for bombings and other atrocities in Central Mindanao in the southern Philippines.

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