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Atrocities creep into Maguindanao fighting

by Pesante-USA/AJLPP Friday, Jul. 07, 2006 at 5:45 AM 213-241-0906 337 Glendale Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90026

Pesante-USA/AJLPP prints new reports of atrocities that have begun to surface in Maguindanao as fighting between militia and rebels of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) continued to escalate. A lone gunman killed the wife of a senior MILF leader implicated in a failed attempt to kill the provincial governor, the military said Thursday.

Atrocities creep into Maguindanao fighting

By Al Jacinto, Correspondent

ZAMBOANGA CITY: Reports of atrocities have begun to surface in Maguindanao as fighting between militia and rebels of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) continued to escalate.

A lone gunman killed the wife of a senior MILF leader implicated in a failed attempt to kill the provincial governor, the military said Thursday.

The military said Nora Pakiladatu was gunned down shortly before noontime Wednesday in Cotabato City. “The case is under investigation by the Cotabato police,” said Capt. Jose Ritche Pabilonia, spokesman for the Southern Command.

The killing of Pakiladatu followed reports that militiamen allegedly executed at least three MILF rebels they had captured.

The woman was the wife of Zaid Pakiladato, deputy chief of the MILF’s 105th Base Command in Camp Omar in Shariff Aguak in Maguindanao, where rebels and progovernment militia had been fighting since last week. “This is very sad. You don’t kill Muslim women. We condemn the killing,” Eid Kabalu, the MILF spokesman, told The Manila Times.

He said the woman, who was on her way to a mosque, was shot inside her van in the business district of Cotabato.

“Her family blamed the killing on the ongoing clashes in Shariff Aguak,” Kabalu said. The attack came just hours after Zaid, in a radio interview in Cotabato City, denied any involvement in the June 23 bombing in Shariff Aguak.

Implicated in the bombing

The bombing wounded 14 people; police and military authorities blamed Pakiladato and Jamil Ombra, commander of the 105th Base Command, as behind the attack. The target of the bombing was allegedly the governor.

Before Pakiladato’s killing, gunmen had also killed a woman, Kaushar Daud, near the area. Her unidentified sister survived the attack, and the military said both were in the van when gunmen opened fire on Daud.

Kabalu, quoting witnesses, said Pakiladato’s killer walked right up to the van and shot her several times at close range with a .45-caliber pistol. The killer fled on a motorcycle.

The latest killings heightened tension in Maguindanao where militiamen allegedly executed the three captured MILF rebels in Shariff Aguak.

“Three of our members were executed, probably tortured first and then killed by musketry by militia. The fighting is going on and there is no sign of it ever stopping today or tomorrow. The situation is chaotic and there is fighting on several fronts,” Kabalu said.

MILF camp attacked

He accused armed civilians and militia loyal to Ampatuan as behind the simultaneous attacks on Camp Omar, a major MILF headquarters in the town, in retaliation for the bombing.

Ampatuan, a former leader of the Moro National Liberation Front, was unhurt, but the bomb killed a nephew. Police ordered the arrest of Ombra and Pakiladato, but the MILF refused to surrender them.

Kabalu said the fighting on Wednesday was fierce in Shariff Aguak, but was sporadic the next day. Clashes were also reported in Datu Piang, Datu Unsay and Mamasapano towns, all in Maguindanao. “These clashes have displaced more than 2,000 families,” he said.

The MILF accused militia of torching houses of civilians who were supporters of the rebel group in Shariff Aguak. “The militia torched dozens of thatched houses; those owned by MILF supporters or relatives of rebels, and these atrocities add up to the problems in Maguin danao,” Kabalu said.

Rebel forces have killed and wounded dozens of militia in the clashes since last week, Kabalu said, adding, at least eight MILF guerrillas were also killed.

Militia reinforcements

More militia from other towns in Maguindanao have arrived in Shariff Aguak and were reportedly preparing to assault Camp Omar to get to the two wanted rebel leaders.

The MILF, the country’s largest Muslim rebel group, is negotiating peace with Manila, and Kabalu said the continued fighting “could have a serious implication for the peace talks.”

President Arroyo has ordered the military to work closely with the Coordinating Committee for the Cessation of Hostilities and the Malaysian-led International Monitoring Team to maintain peace and order in Maguindanao.

The President also instructed the military to coordinate with government relief agencies and local governments in helping thousands of Muslim evacuees and ensuring their safe return to their homes. Government spokesmen said the fighting between the rebels and militia was an isolated case and have not affected the peace talks.

“The government is determined to pursue peace and development while taking all effective means to stop terrorism and bringing to justice those who have engaged in bombings and depredations,” Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye has said.

Committed to peace

“We are resolved to forge peace, defeat terror and fight poverty through the full implementation of our development programs in the region with the active support and participation of all our strategic allies in the international community,” he said.

Murad Ebharim, chieftain of the MILF, ordered rebel forces in Maguindanao to remain inside their camps and fight only when attacked.

Kabalu said Camp Omar, which straddles the towns of Shariff Aguak, Datu Piang, Kabuntalan and Datu Saudi Ampatuan, and the towns of Midsayap and Aleosan in North Cotabato, is home to tens of thousands of rebels and their supporters. “There is no assurance at this time that the fighting will ever stop as long as the militias continue attacking us,” he said.

Fighting in February between rebels and militia in Shariff Aguak also left more than a dozen people dead. The fighting erupted after the MILF opposed a provincial government road construction that rebels said would encroach on their territories in the village of Datu Unsay.

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