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MILF agrees to pull out troops in North Cotabato

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 22:50:00 08/07/2008

MANILA, Philippines—Less than 12 hours before government’s 24-hour ultimatum expires, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has agreed to pull out its troops from nine villages it allegedly occupied in North Cotabato province, a rebel official said Thursday evening.

“Repositioning, this means that troops occupying a certain area will be moved,” MILF Vice Chairman for political affaird Ghadzali Jaafar said in a phone interview.

Asked if the “repositioning” meant a pullout from the villages identified by government security forces, Jaafar said: “I think that is the meaning of that.”

The decision was reached Thursday evening after a meeting of the Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH), a ceasefire implementing body jointly chaired by the government and the MILF in Shariff Kabunsuan province.

Jaafar was evasive when asked if the MILF’s move was in response to the government’s 24-hour ultimatum, which expires at 10 a.m. Friday.

He said the MILF had planned to “reposition” troops there as early as two weeks ago, but “they had a hard time enforcing it because emotions were running high” in the areas.

“I think they decided that now is the right time to enforce their decision, and the decision is repositioning,” he said.

Asked if the rebels’ decision would avert possible fighting when the ultimatum lapses, Jaafar said: “Tingnan natin [Let’s see]. We hope.”

Security officials have warned the MILF that they would forcibly remove the rebels from the North Cotabato villages if they refuse to leave voluntarily. Three battalions of police commandos have been sent to the area.

The tension in North Cotabato rose as peace negotiations between the government and the largest Moro rebel group in the country hit a snag after the Supreme Court issued last Monday a temporary restraining order stopping the signing of a memorandum of agreement that would ultimately expand the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao to include 712 more villages.

View article as posted on INQUIRER.net

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Written by joelguinto

ThuUTC2008-08-07T15:38:57+00:00UTC08bUTCThu, 07 Aug 2008 15:38:57 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm08

Posted in Uncategorized

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