Lieutenant Colonel Julieto Ando said the military offensive would continue against Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) guerrillas in seven towns in Maguindanao province, 960 kilometres south of Manila.
The offensive was aimed at flushing out two senior commanders of the MILF who led bloody attacks on several towns in the nearby provinces of North Cotabato, Sarangani, Lanao del Sur and Lanao del Norte, Ando said.
He said 24 soldiers were wounded since the offensive started on Wednesday.
The MILF rebels went on a deadly rampage in the southern region of Mindanao, burning homes, ransacking businesses and government buildings, and ambushing military targets and private vehicles in the affected towns. More than 100 people were killed in the attacks and ensuing clashes with the military, while some 160,000 residents were displaced due to the hostilities.
The attacks followed the aborted signing of a territorial agreement between the MILF and the Philippine government, which would have expanded an existing autonomous Muslim region in Mindanao, the country's main southern island.
The Philippine government scrapped the deal amid strong opposition by Catholic politicians, who challenged the agreement's constitutionality in the Supreme Court.
President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo stressed that her government remains committed to negotiating peace with the MILF, but said the rebel group must take responsibility for the deadly attacks and surrender the commanders that led them.//Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA) - August 23, 2008