Troops Attack MILF Forces In Southern Philippine Island

September 26, 2007 at 5:01 pm | Posted in 1 | Leave a comment

BASILAN ISLAND, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / 26 Sept) – The Philippines’ largest Muslim rebel group, Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), on Wednesday accused government soldiers of attacking its forces in the southern island of Basilan.

The fighting which began Tuesday in Tipo-Tipo town left 10 rebels and two soldiers dead, said Army Maj. Eugene Batara, a spokesman for the Western Mindanao Command. But the MILF said troops attacked rebels in the villages of Baguindan and Silangkum, sparking daylong clashes in Tipo-Tipo town.


“The Philippine military has again violated the cease-fire agreement. Government troops attacked MILF forces without provocation,” Eid Kabalu, a rebel spokesman, told the Mindanao Examiner. Kabalu also denied that 10 rebels were killed.

Supt. Salik Macapantar, Basilan police chief, on Wednesday confirmed the fighting in Tipo-Tipo town were between government forces and Abu Sayyaf militants, backed by MILF rebels.

He said two Abu Sayyaf gunmen and three MILF fighters were killed in sporadic clashes and that 14 government soldiers and militiaman have been wounded also. A high-school student was hit with a stray bullet, but is alive.

“Five gunmen are dead and 14 soldiers wounded, including a pro-government militiaman. One student was also wounded,” he said in an interview.

Maj. Gen. Nehemias Pajarito, commander of army forces in western Mindanao, also said that troops were fighting combined MILF and Abu Sayyaf forces in Basilan.

“The operation is on going against the MILF and Abu Sayyaf forces responsible in the hostilities in Basilan,” he said in a separate interview on Wednesday.

Kabalu said MILF forces were ordered to remain in heightened alert and defend themselves against government offensive. “We don’t want any hostilities, but MILF members are ready to themselves,” he said.

It was unknown how the latest fighting would affect the peace talks, which have been stalled since last year, after the MILF and the government failed to sign any deal on the ancestral domain. It is one of the most contentious issues in the negotiations before both sides could sign a peace agreement. The ancestral domain covers almost all of the provinces in Mindanao, including the islands of Palawan, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.

Security officials in Basilan island ignored telephone calls from journalists and declined to give any statement about the latest fighting. Police said the fighting on Tuesday broke out after patrolling security forces ran into a group of armed men and a firefight ensued.

Batara said security forces were pursuing Abu Sayyaf militants and MILF rebels in Basilan island, blamed for the killing of 14 soldiers, ten of whom were beheaded in July in fierce fighting in Al-Barka town near Tipo-Tipo.

The fighting erupted after troops entered an MILF stronghold in the guise of pursuing Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, wanted both by Manila and Washington for killing two kidnapped US citizens in 2001. The military accused the MILF of coddling the Abu Sayyaf, blamed for the spate of terrorism and kidnappings in the southern Philippines.

Manila opened up peace talks with the MILF in 2001 and both sides signed a truce, but despite the truce fighting still continue in some areas in the southern Philippines. The MILF is fighting the past decades for the establishment of a strict Islamic state similar to Iran. (Mindanao Examiner)

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