The Philippine military says its forces have killed 73 hard-line Muslim rebels and a suspected foreign militant in a three-week offensive in the restive south, where 44 anti-terror police commandos were killed in January by insurgents.

Military spokesman Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc said Monday that six soldiers were killed and 29 others wounded in the assaults that started Feb. 25 and have displaced about 25,000 villagers in the provinces of Maguindanao and North Cotabato.

Military chief of staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang has said he ordered the assaults against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement after its gunmen attacked civilian villages. The insurgents have been implicated in the Jan. 25 killings of 44 commandos involved in an anti-terror raid in Maguindanao.