Rebels Attack Military Base In Southern Philippines

September 3, 2007 at 12:44 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

MAGUINDANAO, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / 03 Sept) – Suspected Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels attacked a government patrol base Monday and wounding two soldiers in the southern Filipino province of Maguindanao, officials said.

Officials said the attack on the patrol base occupied by Army’s 4th Reconnaissance Division occurred in the town of Datu Piang, where sporadic fighting between government militias and rebels were raging since Thursday.

At least 5 rebels were killed in the clashes in three villages, Pandi, Balanakin and Nimao.

“We are in heightened alert because of the skirmishes. Troops have secured power lines and vital government installations to protect them against terror attacks,” Col. Julieto Ando, spokesman of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, told the Mindanao Examiner.

The MILF, which is negotiating peace with Manila, confirmed the hostilities, but said the fighting was triggered by family feud between the militias and rebels.

“There is fighting alright,” Eid Kabalu, a rebel spokesman, said in a separate interview.

The latest attack came two days after the MILF urged President Gloria Arroyo to resolve the problems in Mindanao before her terms ends in 2010.

Arroyo opened peace talks with the MILF, the country’s largest Muslim rebel group, in 2001, but there have been no major agreement to end the insurgency in the troubled region, except for a cease-fire accord.

But despite the truce, sporadic fighting between rebels and soldiers still continue in Mindanao with both sides accusing each other of violating the accord. In July, rebel forces killed 14 soldiers in a fierce battle in Basilan island after security forces encroached inside an MILF stronghold while pursuing Abu Sayyaf militants tied to Al-Qaeda.

The MILF is fighting for the establishment of a strict Islamic state in Mindanao island, whose 16 million populations include about 4 million Muslims.

The MILF accused Arroyo of wasting away six years in peace talks. “Don’t dribble too much, 2001 to 2010 is too long for a decisive President to clinch an agreement with the MILF to address the problem in Mindanao,” said Jun Mantawil, a senior rebel leader.

Peace talks was stalled since September last year after both sides failed to sign any agreement on the most contentious issue — ancestral domain – which refers to the rebel demand for territory that will constitute a Muslim homeland.

Ancestral domain is the single most important issue in the peace negotiations before the rebel group can reach a political settlement with the Philippine government.

The ancestral domain covers the whole of Muslim autonomous region and other areas in Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga Sibugay, North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat and Sarangani provinces where there are large communities of Muslims and indigenous tribes. And even Palawan Island in central Philippines.

Manila previously offered the MILF the Muslim autonomous region, which is composed of Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi which are among the poorest in the country torn by strife and clan wars since its creation in 1989.

The MILF flatly rejected the offer and insisted on self-determination. (Mindanao Examiner)

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