3 Muslims Killed In Sulu Fighting

December 23, 2007 at 1:55 pm | Posted in 1 | Leave a comment

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Dec. 23, 2007) – Three civilians were killed and eight more wounded after soldiers and rebels clashed fiercely on a remote village in the southern Philippine province of Sulu.

Fighting broke out on Saturday in the village of Pangdan-pangdan in Kalingalan Caluang town where a marine soldier was also killed and five others, including four civilians, were wounded.

The civilian casualties were only reported Sunday after troops took control of the village where rogue members of the Moro National Liberation Front and Abu Sayyaf militants whose group is tied to al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiya terror network, used as temporary encampment.

Soldiers raided the village after civilians tipped off the military about the presence of dozens of gunmen.

On Sunday, security forces launched fresh operation to hunt down the rebels who split into smaller groups in the town’s jungle.

Although there were no new reports of fighting, troops have put up road blocks near the town to prevent the entry of weapons or enemy reinforcements.

“The operation is ongoing,” said Major General Reuben Rafael, commander of military forces on the province, about 950 kilometers south of Manila.

Hundreds of villagers have fled their homes for fear that rebels would take them hostage or used civilians as shield against pursuing soldiers.

Rafael said the rebels used villagers to shield them from military assault, but retreating gunmen also shot several civilians who tried to flee.

Soldiers recovered seven automatic rifles and ammunition in the village left behind by rebels under Commanders Opagu and Alawi, whose first names were not immediately known, but both were sub-leaders of the MNLF renegade faction and Abu Sayyaf.

Fighting also erupted last month in Kalingalan Caluang that left eight soldiers and four rebels dead.

The Abu Sayyaf have been blamed for past attacks and kidnappings-for-money in the southern Philippines, while the MNLF signed a peace deal with Manila in 1996, but many were disgruntled with the accord and joined other rebel groups.

The MNLF has repeatedly accused the government of reneging on the agreement, which Manila strongly denied. Under the peace deal, the Philippine would have provided a mini-Marshall plan and livelihoods and housing to tens of thousands of rebels.

In 2001, MNLF gunmen, who were loyal supporters of Nur Misuari, attacked and tried to capture a major military base in Sulu province and another group seized more than 100 people in Zamboanga City.

After the attacks, MNLF chieftain Nur Misuari fled to Sabah by boat, but was captured by Malaysian authorities and eventually deported to the Philippines. (Nickee Butlangan)

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