Thursday, June 26, 2008

MILF, AFP Fighting Stops In Mindanao

COTABATO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / June 26, 2008) – Fighting ceased on Thursday between government forces and Muslim rebels in the southern Philippines and both sides have blamed each other of breaking a seven-year old truce.

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front said one of its rebels was wounded in Wednesday fighting in Maguindanao. It blamed government soldiers for the hostilities in Maguindanao and the fighting in Sarangani province.

“The military is to be blamed for all these fighting. They attacked our forces,” Eid Kabalu, a rebel spokesman, told the Mindanao Examiner.

Kabalu denied that military reports that ten rebels were killed in the clashes, but he insisted that four soldiers died in the fighting. “One of our mujahideen was wounded in the clash, but four soldiers were killed in the fighting and we also recovered seven automatic rifles owned by the Philippine military,” he said.

Lt. Col. Julieto Ando, a regional army spokesman, said the fighting stopped after rebel forces retreated to the mountains.

Ando, quoting civilian intelligence reports, said ten rebels were reported killed in the fighting.

He said the fighting forced hundreds of families to flee their homes for fear they would caught in the cross-fire. “Our concern now is the civilians who were displaced by the MILF attacks,” he said.

Civilians trapped in the fighting Wednesday near Maitum town in Sarangani have been “liberated” by soldiers, according Col. Gaudencio Pangi­linan, commander of the Army’s 1002nd Infantry Brigade in the province.

Pangilinan said two soldiers were among the military casualties, but he was quick to say that there were more rebels killed in the fighting in Sarangani. “We have two casualties, but the MILF suffered more,” he said.

Maitum Mayor Elsie Perrett said the situation has returned to normal.

Perrett said the fighting broke out after rebel forces ambushed government soldiers in the village of Ticulab on Wednesday where a civilian was killed by unidentified gunmen.

President Gloria Arroyo opened up peace talks in 2001 with the MILF, the country’s largest Muslim rebel group, but negotiations were stalled since last year over rebel demands for ancestral lands in the restive, but mineral-rich region of Mindanao.
(Mindanao Examiner)

No comments: