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MILF leadership ‘weak,’ says AFP chief

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‘Unable to control fighters’

By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 13:25:00 07/09/2008

MANILA, Philippines — The recent attacks by Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) fighters on military positions has exposed the “weakness” of a leadership unable to control its ranks, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff General Alexander Yano said.

Nevertheless, Yano dared the MILF’s leadership to “show their sincerity towards the peace process” by “reining in their forces and showing their control over some recalcitrant and wayward elements.”

But MILF chief peace negotiator Mohager Iqbal rejected Yano’s observation, saying the rebel leadership has issued a directive to its men to stop any offensives, if they have been involved in these.

Yano acknowledged that rebel ground commanders have been attacking the military because they have grown “impatient” with the peace talks between the MILF and government, which remain deadlocked on the issue of ancestral domain.

From May 1 to June 30 alone, Yano said the MILF figured in 40 violent incidents, including ambuscades, raids, and attacks on government positions, and eight attacks on power facilities.

“These attacks may be ineffective because they have not really inflicted casualties…but we feel that this is a weakness on the part of the MILF leadership,” Yano told a forum hosted by the Manila Overseas Press Club (MOPC) late Tuesday evening.

The military chief said that, being a guerilla force, the MILF is a “loose organization” that is “not as solid and cohesive as [the rebels] would like to project.”

Reached for comment, Iqbal said: “The fact that there have been no attacks [in the] past week means that the MILF leadership is in control.”

“The MILF leadership has issued a directive to stop [the attacks], if it is true that they are involved,” Iqbal said in a phone interview on Wednesday.

At the same time, Iqbal criticized the deployment of additional troops to the provinces of Sultan Kudarat and Saranggani, the site of the most recent encounters between government and rebel forces, saying this violated the ceasefire.

Yano said he has ordered troops engaging the MILF to “stretch their patience so that we can uphold the primacy of the peace process but without jeopardizing the safety of our civilian communities.”

“This is not to say that our troops will be sitting ducks; we have to calibrate our actions so that they can defend themselves and defend the communities,” Yano said.

Yano said the military was “closely watching” MILF forces who could have forged alliances with the Al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf group. The MILF leadership has consistently denied dealing with terrorist groups.

View article as posted on INQUIRER.net

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Written by joelguinto

WedUTC2008-07-09T06:52:55+00:00UTC07bUTCWed, 09 Jul 2008 06:52:55 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am07

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