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Firefight mars MILF pullout from North Cotabato

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 12:52:00 08/09/2008

MANILA, Philippines – A firefight marred the pullout of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) forces from North Cotabato province, which authorities expect to finish Saturday, an Army official said.

The exchange of fire between the MILF and militia forces happened between 4:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. Friday in Dunguan village, the rebels’ jump off point to Maguindanao province, where they were ordered to return or “reposition,” said Brigadier General Reynaldo Sealana, who co-chairs a ceasefire implementing body with the MILF.

“The CAFGU [Civilian Armed Forces Geographic Unit] and the CVO [Civilian Volunteers Organization] in the area, when they saw the MILF, thought that they were under attack, so there was an exchange of fire,” Sealana said in a phone interview.

Reinforcements from the Philippine Army were sent to nearby Takudok
village after the incident, Sealana said.

The separatist rebels have requested a pullout of the Army reinforcements so that
they could leave Dunguan village, he said.

“I told them I can do that to show good faith. We will ask the military to pull out, now I’m waiting for their [military’s] action. We are also waiting for the [MILF’s] action to show us good faith also,” he said.

Asked if the pullout could be completed on Saturday, Sealana said: “We are talking with the different sides right now to really effect [the pullout] today [Saturday].”

“If it was stalled yesterday, we will continue it today to show that the tension has ceased and the residents can return to their homes,” he said.

The government has accused the MILF of occupying nine villages in North Cotabato, forcing the residents to flee as the rebels burned their houses and ransacked their farms.

The rebels have stayed in North Cotabato beyond the 24-ultimatum of the government that expired at 10 a.m. Friday. Negotiations eventually convinced the rebels to leave the area later that day.

View article as posted on INQUIRER.net

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Written by joelguinto

SatUTC2008-08-09T13:08:50+00:00UTC08bUTCSat, 09 Aug 2008 13:08:50 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm08

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