More than 40 Philippine police commandos were killed in an 11-hour firefight with Muslim rebels which erupted while they were chasing one of the region’s most wanted militants, police said Monday.
The clash — which broke out despite a peace pact with the main rebel group — was “the single largest loss of life in recent memory by our security forces”, said interior minister Manuel Roxas.
A total of 43 commandos were killed Sunday in the remote town of Mamasapano, a known rebel stronghold, on Mindanao island in the south, the national police chief Leonardo Espina told a news conference.
Regional police spokeswoman Judith Ambong told AFP separately the bodies of 49 policemen were recovered.
Eleven police were injured but there was no information on any Muslim rebel casualties.
Almost 400 police commandos swooped before dawn on the hideout of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), a splinter group which rejects the peace pact, in search of Zulkifli bin Hir.
Roxas said police claimed to have killed Zulkifli, a bombmaker for the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) group which staged the 2002 Bali bombings and other deadly attacks.