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Clashes continue between AFP militias and MILF; 6 killed in Mindanao

by Pesante-USA Monday, Jan. 29, 2007 at 7:17 PM
magsasakakapil@hotmail.com 213-241-0906 337 Glendale Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90026

Reports from the militart Camp Siongco reported that three progovernment militias and three Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels were killed in continuing military operations in remote villages of Midsayap, North Cotabato. Meanwhile, MILF spokesman Eid Kabalu denied the military’s account, citing it was the soldiers who harassed their forces stationed near Barangay Rangaban on January 25. “The military shelled our position and followed up by continuing ground operation until Saturday afternoon,” he said.

Clashes continue between AFP militias and MILF; 6 killed in Mindanao

Manila-- Reports from the militart Camp Siongco reported that three progovernment militias and three Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels were killed in continuing military operations in remote villages of Midsayap, North Cotabato.

Lt. Col. Julieto Ando, Army’s 6th Infantry Division spokesman, said the fighting started since January 25 after some 100 MILF rebels led by Commander Yuri Sugod, Masdal, Garduque and Orih, all of the MILF 10th Base Command, stormed the villages of Rangaban and Mudseng while locals were harvesting their farm crops.

Three militiamen, one identified as Alicio Camino, were killed in the attack, Ando said.

On January 26, the rebels harassed once more farmers in the villages of Rangaban, Mudseng and Tumbras and carted away the people’s harvest, he added.

On Saturday, military soldiers under the 7th Infantry Battalion were deployed to secure the villages from further harassment when attacked by over a hundred guerillas, leaving two soldiers wounded.

“This is a violation in our ceasefire. We are protesting. They even carted away farmers’ crops. They are always doing these every time civilians are harvesting their crops,” Ando said.

Meanwhile, MILF spokesman Eid Kabalu denied the military’s account, citing it was the soldiers who harassed their forces stationed near Barangay Rangaban on January 25.

“The military shelled our position and followed up by continuing ground operation until Saturday afternoon,” he said.

Sporadic clashes spread early Sunday to other villages and left four MILF fighters dead, Ando said.

Negotiators from both sides were dispatched to the area to prevent an escalation of violence that is feared to affect peace talks begun in 2003.

MILF chief negotiator Mo­hagher Iqbal called on colleagues at the Joint GRP-MILF Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities and International Monitoring Team for quick pacification efforts on the incident, as some 500 affected villagers have evacuated to safer grounds.

Presidential adviser on the peace process, Jesus Dureza, said the “situation has started to normalize” with social workers and disaster relief agencies alerted to the evacuations.

“The unfortunate incident in Midsayap is now being handled by the joint ceasefire committee of the government and MILF,” Dureza told AFP.

The 12,000-strong MILF has been waging a separatist rebellion in Mindanao since 1978. It however signed a truce with Manila four years ago and denounced all links to foreign terrorist groups to pave the way for formal peace talks.

Negotiations have been repeatedly bogged down by MILF demands for economic control of areas they claim as their “ancestral domain.”

The Midsayap incident came just days after the presidential palace said that a final agreement with the MILF could be reached within the year.

MILF chief negotiator Mo­hager Iqbal said they will file a formal complaint with a joint ceasefire monitoring committee and with an international observer group led by Malaysia.

He said it would however not lead to the collapse of the peace talks aimed at finding a political solution to the conflict.

Malaysia, a member of the influential Organization of Islamic Conference, has been brokering and hosting the peace talks. It has also sent observers to check the status of the truce on the ground.


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