Troops Press For Sayyaf, MILF Hunt In South RP Island

September 27, 2007 at 11:23 pm | Posted in 1 | Leave a comment

BASILAN ISLAND, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / 27 Sept) – Security forces on Thursday continue hunting down Abu Sayyaf militants and Moro rebels blamed for the killing of two government soldiers in fierce clashes in Basilan island, south of the Philippines.

Officials said civilians were also providing vital intelligence about the militants, whose group is tied to al-Qaeda terror network and Jemaah Islamiya, and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

“Civilians are passing us information about the terrorists. Security forces are also tracking down the terrorists,” Army Maj. Eugene Batara, a spokesman for the Western Mindanao Command, told the Mindanao Examiner.

The MILF, which is currently negotiating peace with Manila, accused the Philippine military of violating the truce when soldiers attacked rebel forces in the villages of Baguindan and Silangkum in Tipo-Tipo town on Tuesday.

The daylong clashes killed two army soldiers and wounded 10 more.

Batara said ten gunmen were also killed in the fighting, but Eid Kabalu, a rebel spokesman, denied the report. “We have no casualties,” he said in a separate interview.

He said MILF forces under Hamza Sapanton clashed with government soldiers in Tipo-Tipo town.

Maj. Gen. Nehemias Pajarito, commander of the First Infantry Division, said that troops were fighting combined MILF and Abu Sayyaf forces in Basilan. He accused the MILF of colluding with the Abu Sayyaf group.

“My soldiers are fighting the rebels and Abu Sayyaf terrorists who joined forces in Basilan,” he said.

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 in the southern Philippines. (Mindanao Examiner)

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