New Anti-Terror Group To Pursue Killers Of Soldiers In Basilan Island

July 23, 2007 at 2:06 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

BASILAN (Mindanao Examiner / 23 Jul) – The Philippine military has formed Monday a new anti-terror task force to run after Moro rebels who beheaded 10 soldiers in the southern island of Basilan.

The soldiers were among the 14 slaughtered in the village of Guinanta in Al-Barka town on July 10 while searching for a kidnapped Italian Catholic priest Giancarlo Bossi.

The 57-year old priest, kidnapped by rogue MILF members in Payao town in Zamboanga Sibugay province, was free nine days later in Lanao del Norte province in Mindanao.

Maj. Eugene Batara, a regional army spokesman, said the new group called Joint Task Force Meteor will be headed by Marine Brig. Gen. Juancho Sabban.

“It will be tasked to conduct operations and effect punitive action against those involved in the beheading and mutilation of marines in Guinanta.”

“The task force will coordinate with the Philippine National Police and the Department of Justice,” Batara told reporters.

The military demanded the MILF to surrender the rebels who beheaded the soldier and it also linked Abu Sayyaf militants whose group is tied al-Qaeda in the beheading.

The rebel group defied a one week ultimatum that ended Sunday and is bracing for military attacks and so far there have been none. But security forces have surrounded the stronghold of the MILF in Basilan island.

More than 2,000 soldiers, including dozens from the Presidential guards, are in Basilan island to help in the hunt for rebels behind the killing.

The MILF, which is negotiating peace with Manila, denied decapitating the soldiers who were killed inside a rebel stronghold.

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 allegedly 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.

Mohagher Iqbal, chief MILF peace negotiator, said any attack on MILF forces in Basilan could spark an all-out war and may hurt the peace talks.

He said the MILF will not surrender any of its members because the clashes, sparked by the soldiers’intrusion into a rebel stronghold, violated a six-year old cease-fire agreement.

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.

The MILF is the Philippines’ largest Muslim rebel group fighting the past three decades for separate homeland in Mindanao. (Mindanao Examiner)

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