MAGUINDANAO, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / May 31, 2009) – At least 7 Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels were killed in fierce clashes after they attacked a military post in the restive Muslim autonomous region in the southern Philippines, official said Sunday.
Officials said the rebels attacked late Saturday the headquarters of the 54th Infantry Battalion in Buayan village in Maguindanao’s Datu Piang town, sparking a firefight that left 7 gunmen dead.
“Seven rebels were killed in the fighting, but there could be more as the MILF forces retreated with their wounded,” said Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Ponce, a spokesman for the 6th Infantry Division.
He said the rebels were targeting the army’s 105mm cannons in the base and the ammunition storage. “There were no military casualties,” Ponce said. “All is well and the operations against the attackers are going on.”
Last week, the MILF said it bombed a bridge in Datu Piang and ambushed government troops in another town Datu Saudi Ampatuan, also in Maguindanao and three other areas in North Cotabato province as part of its counter-offensive operations.
It said the attacks were in retaliation to the series of military offensives that targeted the MILF, but Ponce said the attacks were aimed at capturing Kato’s group.
Security forces were also tracking down two other MILF leaders, Abdurahman Macapaar and Sulayman Panglian, who were blamed by the military and police for the string of attacks in Mindanao since last year after the seven-year old peace talks between the rebels and the government collapsed.
In April, a market bombing in Sultan Kudarat’s Lebak town wounded two civilians and the military blamed the attack to the rebels, including the bombing of another bridge in Iligan City.
President Gloria Arroyo opened up peace talks with the MILF in 2001, but the negotiations collapsed in August last year after government negotiators reneged on a deal that would grant some four million Muslims a separate homeland across more than 700 villages in Mindanao. The Supreme Court said the deal was unconstitutional. (Mindanao Examiner)