KORONADAL CITY -- A two-and-a-half hour firefight between alleged armed followers of the beleaguered Ampatuan clan and Moro rebels erupted Thursday afternoon in Datu Hoffer town in Maguindanao.

Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan G. Ponce, spokesperson of the Army's 6th Infantry Division, said sporadic gun fight between the two armed groups occurred from 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. in the upper portion of Datu Hoffer's Limpongo village.

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"The firefight was more of a rido," Ponce said in a phone interview.

But Senior Superintendent Alex Lenesis, acting Maguindanao police chief, said his command is still conducting thorough investigation to determine the cause of the firefight.

Lenesis said armed elements of the Civilian Volunteers Organization (CVO) were headed by a Commander Tamano, whom he described as a "kagawad (councilor)" and the 105th Base Command of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) by one Commander Pancho.

Ponce said the militiamen were part of the private army of the Ampatuans.

The firefight resulted in the reported injury of one Ampatuan follower, he added.

There was no evacuation by civilians triggered by the sporadic firefight, which was cut by the deployment of military troops to the scene, Ponce said.

Datu Hoffer is a known bailiwick of the Ampatuans.

The fresh firefight between the armed groups happened despite the presence of 15 army battalions in Maguindanao or at least 4,500 soldiers.

Maguindanao remains under a state of emergency following the grisly massacre of 57 people, including 31 journalists and media workers, last November 23 in the town of Ampatuan.

Members of rival political family and their lawyers were to file the certificate of candidacy of Buluan Vice Mayor Esmael G. Mangudadatu when abducted and later massacred in an isolated patch off the main highway. The media workers were part of the convoy to cover the filing.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo imposed martial law in Maguindanao but lifted it after several days.

The main suspect in the gory manslaughter, Datu Unsay Mayor Andal U. Ampatuan Jr., was formally charged with 41 counts of murder, with the trial commencing early this week at the national police headquarter in Camp Crame.

Ampatuan Jr. is now detained at the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) headquarters in Manila.

His father and namesake, Andal S. Ampatuan Sr., suspended governor of Maguindanao, was also arrested and is now detained at a military hospital in Davao City.

Other clan members who are in jail in General Santos City are brothers Zaldy U. Ampatuan, suspended governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (Armm); former acting Maguindanao governor Sajid Islam U. Ampatuan, Shariff Aguak Mayor Anwar U. Ampatuan, and their cousin former acting Maguindanao Vice Governor Akmad M. Ampatuan.

Ampatuan Sr. and the other arrested clan members were suspected of involvement in the mass murder and of leading a rebellion against the government.