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MILF attacks meant to push peace talks’ revival — AFP

by AJLPP Wednesday, Jul. 02, 2008 at 2:18 PM
maqsasakapil@hotmail.com 213-241-0906 337 Glendale Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90026

A senior military official said the Muslim separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is stepping up attacks in Mindanao in a bid to pressure the government into restarting its stalled peace talks with the rebel group. Meanwhile, the MILF blames the AFP for the attacks. According to Regional Army chief Maj. Gen. Reymundo Ferrer, elements within the MILF want to put pressure on the government to resume the talks by launching the attacks.

MILF attacks meant to push peace talks’ revival — AFP

07/02/2008

Manila---A senior military official said the Muslim separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is stepping up attacks in Mindanao in a bid to pressure the government into restarting its stalled peace talks with the rebel group. Meanwhile, the MILF blames the AFP for the attacks.

According to Regional Army chief Maj. Gen. Reymundo Ferrer, elements within the MILF want to put pressure on the government to resume the talks by launching the attacks.

Ferrer said the Armed Forces have already recorded more than 10 violent incidents by the MILF since early June.

“We have received reports that they (MILF rebels) are doing this to pressure the government to fast track the peace talks,” he told reporters.

In the latest skirmish, MILF gunmen yesterday engaged government troops near Aleosan town in North Cotabato province in a firefight, killing a local farmer in the crossfire.

Army 6th Infantry Division spokesman Col. Julieto Ando said the farmer was the second civilian casualty in the same number of days when clashes between government forces and the Muslim rebels erupted since Monday.

Ando said the fighting on Monday was sparked when around 8:30 a.m. some 100 MILF gunmen attacked members of the Army’s 40th Infantry Battalion manning a military checkpoint in a farming village in Matalam. A farmer was wounded in the encounter.

The fighting yesterday forced some 200 families from Barangay Pagangan-Uno in Aleosan to flee to nearby Pikit town for safety.

“They harassed the villagers and looted the houses of both Muslims and Christians there,” Ando said.

He said the attacks were a violation of the truce that the MILF had forged with the government five years ago to pave the way for the peace talks to take place between them.

MILF Statement

The MILF, however, said it was the military which had caused the renewed clashes to erupt in Mindanao.

The rebel group’s spokesman, Eid Kabalu, said it was the members of the Army’s 40th IB who attacked residents including some members of the MILF who were living in Pagangan-Uno village.

Aside from Monday and yesterday’s incidents, MILF men reportedly held hostage 25 residents of Barangay Rangaban in Midsayap town, also in North Cotabato, over the weekend.

The rebels also allegedly launched a raid last week in the town of Maitum in Sarangani province.

PGMA Directives

President Arroyo, meanwhile, directed the Armed Forces to “take appropriate steps to protect civilians from harm against those who disrupt the peace” in the wake of the reported attacks waged by the MILF.

“While reiterating the primacy of the peace process, President Arroyo called on the Armed Forces to be vigilant and address the resurgence of violent incidents especially in certain areas in Central Mindanao,” Press Secretary Jesus Dureza said in a statement.

Both the government and the secessionist group are rushing to revive the peace talks before an International Monitoring Team (IMT) sent to Mindanao leaves next month.

The IMT, which is overseeing the implementation of the ceasefire the government and the MILF had forged in 2003 to open peace talks and bring an end to the violence which has claimed thousands of lives in the South, ends its mandate on Aug. 31.

In May, some 60 Malaysian troops, who made up the bulk of the IMT, began pulling out of Mindanao, saying they were frustrated by the slow progress of the peace process.

The 12,000-strong MILF has been waging a separatist rebellion in the southern Mindanao region since 1978.

The peace negotiations have been stalled since December last year due to disagreements over what authority the MILF would exercise over Muslim-populated areas they claim as their ancestral homeland. AFP and PNA

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