Hunt For Moro Rebels Continue In Southern Philippines

August 1, 2007 at 2:51 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Policemen hunt Moro rebels tagged as behind the beheading of ten of 14 Marines in the southern Filipino island of Basilan. (Mindanao Examiner Photo Service)

BASILAN ISLAND, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / 01 Aug) – Police searched on Wednesday for Moro rebels suspected of beheading ten of 14 marines in the southern Filipino island of Basilan.

The island’s police chief, Senior Superintendent Salik Macapantar, said they are monitoring possible hideouts of the rebels after failing to arrest them Tuesday.

Police filed murder charges against 130 members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and Abu Sayyaf militants tagged in the beheading of the soldiers.

Some 300 heavily armed policemen, backed by armored troop transport with mounted machine guns, searched in remote villages in Al-Barka town Tuesday to serve the arrest warrants against the rebels, but the suspects were gone along with all the residents.

“We are conducting intelligence operations. We will look for them in all corners of Basilan,” Macapantar said told the Mindanao Examiner.

He added that some of the suspects might have left Basilan while others were given sanctuary by their relatives.

The MILF, which is negotiating peace with the Arroyo government, denied beheading the soldiers and called for an international human rights group to investigate the incident.

The fighting erupted after some 100 soldiers entered an MILF territory in search for a kidnapped Italian priest Giancarlo Bossi after military intelligence reports said the clergy was being held by rogue MILF rebels.

The reports turned out to be false because Bossi was freed by rebels July 19 in Lanao del Norte province in Mindanao island. The priest said he was never brought to Basilan, but stayed most of his captivity in the town called Karomatan.

Philippine military chief Gen. Hermogenes Esperon has demanded the MILF to surrender those involved in the killing and return the weapons it seized, but the MILF was defiant and said it would not yield any of its fighters.

Mohagher Iqbal, chief MILF peace negotiator, said the fighting was a legitimate encounter and warned any attack on the rebel group could escalate and may hurt the seven year old peace talks.

Filipino acting Defense chief Norberto Gonzales has threatened to launch punitive actions against the MILF in Basilan if they do not surrender the rebels behind the murder.

The MILF is the country’s largest Muslim rebel group fighting the past three decades for a separate homeland in the restive southern region of Mindanao. (Mark Navales)


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