MANILA, Philippines (AP) — A Philippine military official says 17 Muslim rebels from a breakaway faction and a soldier have died in renewed clashes in the south of the country.

Regional military spokesman Col. Dickson Hermoso said Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement fighters attacked army troops in two adjacent towns in Maguindanao province, igniting clashes that left 17 militants and 1 soldier dead Monday. Three other soldiers were wounded.

The rebels broke off from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the main rebel group which signed a new Muslim autonomy deal with the government in March. The breakaway rebels opposed the peace talks, preferring to take up arms for an independent Muslim homeland in the south of the predominantly Roman Catholic nation.

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