Philippine mourning for slain police. 

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The Philippines is holding a day of mourning for 44 police commandos killed in a clash with Muslim rebels.

The bodies of those who died were returned to Manila on Thursday. They will be honoured later on Friday in a ceremony led by President Benigno Aquino.The violence took place in the southern province of Maguindanao on Sunday.Police seeking two terror suspects entered a village held by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (Milf).

The Milf signed a peace deal with the government last year to end years of fighting.But the rebels say police did not liaise with them about the operation as required under the deal, leading to the accidental clash.

‘Peace at stake’

All flags at government offices and military installations are being flown at half-mast on Friday to honour those who died, Philippine media say.On Wednesday, in a televised address to the nation, Mr Aquino said that the peace deal must not collapse.

“If the peace process were derailed, how many more graves would we have to dig?” he said.The rebels have agreed to end their fight in return for the establishment of an autonomous Muslim region.Work is under way on a law to create this region and the president said it had to continue, amid calls from some lawmakers for a delay.

“The entire peace process is at stake with this law. If we fail to pass the law at the soonest possible time, the peace process will fail and the status quo will remain.”

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Thousands of people have been killed over four decades of separatist fighting in the south of the country. The deal in March 2014 was seen as a breakthrough.

The two targets of the police operation were Zulkifli bin Hir, known as Marwan – a leading figure of Islamist group Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) – as well as suspected JI bomb-making expert Basit Usman, who is linked to a Milf splinter group that rejects the peace deal.

JI has links to al-Qaeda and wants an Islamic state across south-east Asia. It has a long track record of bomb attacks in Indonesia and elsewhere in the region.Marwan, who is on the FBI’s most-wanted list, is believed to have been in hiding in the southern Philippines for over a decade.Police say Marwan was killed but this has not been confirmed. Both he and Basit Usman have been incorrectly reported killed several times.

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