On Feb. 9, 2005, Reuters is reporting that nearly 60 people have been killed by fighting between the Philippine military and two Muslim extremist rebel groups, the al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf and renegades from the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), which had signed a peace deal witht he government in 1996. A third group which split off from the MNLF in 1978, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), claimed that it wasn't involved in the current clashes and apparently remains scheduled to resume peace talks with the Philippine government in March, despite calls from Abu Sayyaf and others to abandon peace talks and resume attacks on the government. The fighting is taking place in the embattled Jolo region of the country, a stronghold for rebel groups. The 500-member Abu Sayyaf and other Philippine rebel groups have a long history of kidnapping, murders, and bombings against both foreigners and Filipinos, and claim to be seeking to create a separate Muslim nation.
On Monday, hundreds of rebels ambushed a convoy of soldiers in the town of Patikul, and staged attacks in other areas of Jolo, triggering the current fighting. It is believed that the current rebel actions were carried out in an attempt to pressure the government to transfer jailed separatist leader Nur Misuari to the Sulu province.
In response to the attacks, Philippine Army spokesman LtCol. Buenaventura Pascual said that the military launched an offensive against the rebels. "Since Monday [Feb. 7], we have lost 20 soldiers, but we killed about 40 rebels in our punitive actions," Pascual said. He added that over 30 soldiers were wounded. Pascual told reporters that six additional aircraft were sent to Jolo to provide CAS for the ground forces. Army howitzers began shelling the rebel positions on Wednesday morning, while OV-10 Broncos dropped 500 lb. bombs on bunkers and helicopters fired rockets. Three thousand soldiers assaulted the rebel positions on the ground.
Last year, the Philippine Air Force accepted several OV-10 airframes from the Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) into active service, after the RTAF decommissioned the type. The PAF has used OV-10s for many years in the Close Air Support and light attack bomber role, as the Bronco is very well suited to the jungle/mountain skirmishes that often occur between the Philippine military and rebel groups, usually in the Jolo area of the country.