23 Muslim rebels killed in new clashes with Philippine military

Officials say Philippine troops have killed at least 23 Muslim rebels in renewed clashes in the restive south, raising the insurgents' death toll in a three-week government offensive to nearly 100.

The offensive was launched against a renegade rebel group called the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, which is blamed for the Jan. 25 deaths of 44 police commandos who stormed the rebel stronghold in search of top terrorist suspects.

The military reported Monday that 73 rebels and a suspected foreign militant were killed since the offensive began Feb. 25. Military spokesman Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc said Wednesday that additional 73 died when fresh fighting broke out in Maguindanao province. Two marines were also killed and 72,000 people displaced.

The main Muslim rebel group has signed a peace deal.