Cotabato - Violence between rival clans in the southern Philippines has claimed seven lives in one week with both sides clashing violently on Thursday, authorities said.
Two people were shot dead and two houses burned in the latest outbreak of violence in the strife-torn island of Mindanao, said regional military spokeswoman Captain Jo-Ann Petinglay.
The fighting on the outskirts of the city of Cotabato was in apparent retaliation for the ambush of a van on Monday, which left five people dead on the side of local clan leader Bimbo Ayunan, she told AFP.
"This is connected to the ambush of the Ayunan family. They harassed the other group they suspected was behind the ambush," she said.
About 50 armed men led by Ayunan arrived in the area by boat before dawn on Thursday and then immediately fired at the houses inhabited by the rival Karim family, said Petinglay.
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The Karim family retaliated, resulting in a fire-fight that raged for half an hour before authorities arrived to stop the violence, she added.
The spokeswoman said there was a long-standing feud between the two clans but could not say if the latest fighting might be related to next year's national and local elections.
Muslim clans in the southern Philippines are notorious for waging prolonged feuds, typically over land, political power or influence. They often use armed followers to attack each other.
Such feuds in Mindanao, which the country's Muslim minority regard as their homeland, claimed more than 5,500 lives and displaced thousands between the 1930s and 2005, according to a study by the Asia Foundation.
In one of the worst cases of such feuds, members of the influential Ampatuan clan in November 2009 allegedly ordered the slaughter of 58 people, including 32 journalists, in an attempt to crush a rival group's election challenge.