IBTimes UK

The Philippine army has killed more than 40 militants in one of the severest crackdowns on Muslim insurgency in the country.

Security forces killed 42 Muslim rebel fighters of an outfit that has links to the Islamic State in a five-day operation in the southern province of in the province of Lanao del Sur.

The army captured the stronghold of a splinter rebel group affiliated to terror outfit Jemaah Islamiah, Reuters reported.

"Our troops were able to seize a stronghold of the terrorists on Thursday night. We are still pursuing the rebels, using armored assets," army spokesman Major Filemon Tan said.

He said the army was using 105-mm howitzer shell fire while the air force planes dropped bombs on rebel positions near Butig, the stronghold of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the country's largest Muslim rebel group.

The Philippines has been plagued by an Islamic insurgency propelled by militant organizations like the Abu Sayyaf Group and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) that operate in the Sulu archipelago and the Mindanao island.

The government signed a peace treaty with the MILF in March 2014, but various splinter groups including the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) that aim to create an Isis-style caliphate in the south of the county have engaged the military in pitched battles.

Abu Sayyaf's vision is the establishment of a pan-Islamic super-state in Southeast Asia. Their immediate goal is to set up an Islamic state in the western Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago.

The group was behind several bombings, hostage taking and kidnap for ransom throughout the 90s. They were behind the Manila bombings in 2005 and the bomb explosion outside the Philippine Congress in 2007 that killed a Congressman and three others.

The outfit has been linked to al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiah at various times.

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