Friday, May 23, 2008

Stay Away From Our Bases, MILF Tells Military

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / May 22, 2008) – Muslim rebels engaged in peace talks with Manila on Thursday warned that the presence of military forces near their camps could spark fighting in the southern island of Basilan.

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front said more government soldiers have been spotted near rebel camps in the hinterlands of Tipo-Tipo and Al-Barka towns, scenes of previous clashes between guerrilla and security forces.

Both areas are also known strongholds of the MILF, the country's largest Muslim rebel group fighting for independence in the southern Philippines.

Some 500 marines are also on their way to Basilan from Manila and expected to arrive this week to augment thousands already deployed on the island, where rebels and soldiers clashed last week.

"The presence of government soldiers near MILF areas is a provocative act and could spark clashes if troops encroach in our places," Mohagher Iqbal, chief MILF peace negotiator, told the Mindanao Examiner.

He said the military failed to coordinate the movement of the soldiers which is a violation of the truce agreement. "We are preparing to file our protest to the joint cease-fire committees because this is causing tension in Basilan," Iqbal said.

Musawwari Aslil, leader of the MILF forces in Basilan island, said the deployment of marines near areas where the rebels are known to operate is a dangerous act. "This is outright provocation," he said. (Mindanao Examiner)

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