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MILF: Raps vs Murad imperil peace talks

by AJLPP-USA Thursday, Oct. 19, 2006 at 7:12 AM 213-241-0906 337 Glendale Ave. Los Angeles, CA 90026

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) protested yesterday the inclusion of its chieftain, Al Haj Murad, in a criminal complaint filed in connection with the recent bomb attack in Makilala, North Cotabato, warning it could endanger the already stalled peace talks. Police filed a murder complaint the other day against Murad and several suspected MILF commanders with the Kidapawan City prosecutor’s office for allegedly plotting the Oct. 10 bombing that killed six people and wounded 29 in Makilala town, government prosecutor Al Calica said.

MILF: Raps vs Murad imperil peace talks

The Philippine Star 10/19/2006

Manila-- The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) protested yesterday the inclusion of its chieftain, Al Haj Murad, in a criminal complaint filed in connection with the recent bomb attack in Makilala, North Cotabato, warning it could endanger the already stalled peace talks.

Police filed a murder complaint the other day against Murad and several suspected MILF commanders with the Kidapawan City prosecutor’s office for allegedly plotting the Oct. 10 bombing that killed six people and wounded 29 in Makilala town, government prosecutor Al Calica said.

The complaint also named three Indonesian militants, including top terror suspects Dulmatin and Umar Patek, both belonging to the Indonesian-based Jemaah Islamiyah, and a Pakistani national, he said.

Dulmatin and Patek — believed to be hiding in Mindanao — have been blamed for some of Southeast Asia’s worst terrorist attacks, including the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people.

MILF spokesman Eid Kabalu denied Murad was involved in the attacks and warned of a "total breakdown" in the Malaysian-brokered peace talks if the government pursues criminal charges against the rebel leader.

He said the MILF would ask the government to withdraw Murad’s name from the complaint and is checking to see if any of the other alleged militants named in the complaint are MILF members.

"If they pursue this, it may lead to a total breakdown in the peace process," Kabalu said.

Murad said the MILF peace panel is now making representations with the government’s ceasefire panel, the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said he was not aware that Murad was included in the charge sheet and chided local authorities for not clearing the matter with "higher authorities" since there are ongoing peace negotiations with the MILF.

"I have to look into this… because it infringes on the higher activity which is the negotiation going on with the MILF," he said.

Negotiations hit a snag in early September over the size of a southern area that would fall under Muslim control as part of a peace deal.

The government has expressed confidence that a three-year-old ceasefire would hold despite the impasse.

Chief Superintendent German Doria, regional police director, said Murad and other MILF commanders were implicated in the attacks by a rebel returnee, Ambas Tukan, who allegedly witnessed them planning the bombings.

Tukan has alleged that his commander and other MILF rebels, an Indonesian bomb expert identified as Jabide Abdul, and a Pakistani, Usman al Majad, met early this month in a rebel camp in North Cotabato to plot the bombings.

The militants "planned and discussed to execute simultaneous bombings within Central Mindanao upon orders from the MILF central command through chairman Ibrahim Murad," Tukan said in a sworn affidavit.

Tukan claimed that days later, he overheard his commander discussing the planned bombings with a number of people, including Murad and Dulmatin.

Superintendent Albert Ferro, chief of the Police Bomb Data Center, said the bombings in Makilala as well as in Tacurong City, Sultan Kudarat and Cotabato City were the handiwork of the Jemaah Islamiyah.

The explosive devices fashioned from mortar shells with nine-volt batteries and detonated via cellular phones were "signature" bombs of the terror group, Ferro said.

PNP chief Director General Oscar Calderon, however, could not say if the MILF leadership sanctioned the attacks.

"We believe that this is just the work of some groups within the organization which are sympathetic to Jemaah Islamiyah or to the Indonesian fugitives. So it is not fair to generalize that the whole MILF was behind the activity," he said.

Ermita said the involvement of MILF guerrillas and former members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in the bombings do not appear to have the blessings of their leaders.

"We cannot be really sure that there is no help coming from the MILF and former MNLF members but the assistance given is not from the organization, but specific elements on their own volition," he said.

Armed Forces chief Gen. Hermogenes Esperon said the attacks could be an attempt by the militants to divert the military’s focus from a US-backed offensive against Abu Sayyaf rebels and Indonesian militants, including Dulmatin and Patek, in Sulu.

They could also be in retaliation for the recent capture of Dulmatin’s wife in Sulu, he said.

Murad, together with the late former MILF chieftain Hashim Salamat, was also tagged in deadly attacks in Davao City in 2000.

He was subsequently included in arrest warrants along with other MILF commanders, but the charges were dismissed in July 2003, on the front’s behest, as a condition for the resumption of the peace talks.

The US, British and Australian embassies have warned their citizens to avoid Mindanao because of possible terrorist attacks. — AP, Cecille Suerte Felipe, Paolo Romero and John Unson

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