More Troops Sent To Southern RP Island To Hunt Executioners Of Marines

July 22, 2007 at 7:07 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

BASILAN (Mindanao Examiner / 22 Jul) – More troops arrived Sunday in the southern Filipino island of Basilan, as the military prepares for a major offensive against Moro rebels behind the beheading of ten marine soldiers.

The soldiers were among the 14 slaughtered in the town of Al-Barka on July 10 while searching for a kidnapped Italian Catholic priest Giancarlo Bossi, who was freed by rogue MILF members in Lanao del Norte province July 19.

Marine Col. Ramiro Alivio, the commander of military forces in Basilan island, said hundreds of troops, including dozens of elite Presidential guards, have arrived to join the hunt for the rebels.

“We are ready for the punitive action,” Ramiro said.

He did not say when the offensive would start, but the military ultimatum for the MILF to surrender those behind the killings ended Sunday.

The MILF, which is negotiating peace with Manila, has repeatedly said it will not yield any of its members, saying, the soldiers entered a rebel stronghold that triggered the day-long clashes.

Mohagher Iqbal, chief MILF peace negotiator, said any attack on MILF forces in Basilan could spark an all-out war and may hurt the negotiations with the government to end more than three decades of bloody fighting in the southern region of Mindanao.

“Our forces are ready to repulse any attack by the Philippine military. We are also ready and prepared,” Iqbal said. “Our fighters in Basilan will now invoke our right to self-defense, which is a God-given to anyone who is attacked right in his homes.”

A senior MILF leader Abdurahman Macapaar, commander of the 2nd Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces, warned that any attack against the rebel group, could escalate and spark fighting in other areas.

Philippine military chief Gen. Hermogenes Esperon insisted the rebels were behind the beheading of the soldiers.

Sattar Alih, head of the MILF cease-fire monitoring team in Basilan island, said rebel forces withdrew from the battle scene, leaving the bodies of soldiers behind, after military and rebels agreed to a cease-fire.

It was unknown who were behind the decapitation, but intelligence sources in Basilan have implicated unnamed politicians who allegedly supplied the Abu Sayyaf and with mortar rockets, weapons and munitions during the fighting.

Their private armies also fought against the military forces side-by-side with the MILF and that two gunmen had died in the skirmishes. The gunmen were believed behind the mutilation of the slain soldiers.

Alivio said they were investigating reports that private armies of politicians, some of them members of the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf group, joined forces with the MILF in attacking the soldiers.

The MILF is the Philippines’ largest Muslim rebel group fighting for separate homeland in Mindanao. (With a report from Merlyn Manos)

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