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Archive for August 17th, 2008

7 soldiers slain, 11 hurt in ambush by MILF in Lanao del Sur

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By Joel Guinto, Agence France-Presse
First Posted 13:05:00 08/17/2008

MANILA, Philippines — (UPDATE 2) Four soldiers and three pro-government militiamen were killed while 11 others were wounded after an Army convoy was ambushed by suspected Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels in Lanao del Sur province on Sunday morning, officials said.

At around 8 a.m. a four-vehicle convoy was on the highway in Mulondo town, on their way to deliver cash allowances to militiamen in neighboring Lumba-Bayabao town when they were fired upon by around 100 armed men who were positioned on higher ground, said Brigadier General Hilario Atendido, chief of the 102nd Infantry Brigade.

“The attack sparked a two-hour firefight. Even after the arrival of the reinforcement troops the firefight was ongoing,” Atendido said in a phone interview.

Atendido could not ascertain the group affiliation of the attackers, but spokesmen for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine Army, Lieutenant Colonels Ernesto Torres Jr. and Romeo Brawner Jr., respectively, said that they are members of the MILF.

A spokesman for the rebels, Eid Kabalu, could not confirm or deny the involvement of the MILF in the incident.

“We are counter-checking, but we have a lot of people there,” Kabalu, the civil military affairs chief of the MILF, said in a phone interview.

The fatalities include four Army soldiers and three members of the Civilian Armed Forces Geographic Unit (CAFGU); the wounded include eight Army men and three CAFGU troops, Brawner said.

But Atendido said only 10 troopers, not 11, were wounded.

The ambush came a week after military offensives flushed out an estimated 500 MILF rebels from 15 poor farming villages in North Cotabato. The fighting left two solders and an estimated 31 MILF fighters killed.

More than 200 houses were burned by the rebels and numerous farm animals and equipment stolen when the MILF occupied the area, leaving unexploded bombs behind as they fled, the military said.

The MILF has been waging a separatist rebellion since 1978, but it signed a ceasefire agreement with Manila in 2003, paving the way for peace talks.

The Supreme Court two weeks ago however aborted a deal between the government and the MILF that would have given the rebels control over vast areas of lands in the south.

The MILF shortly after that attacked government positions and took over the villages.

The civil defense office in Manila said social workers and local officials, aided by the military, were helping displaced villagers return to their homes. Many however, remained fearful of being attacked again and were refusing to leave evacuation centers.

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Written by joelguinto

Sun+00:002008-08-17T06:42:32+00:00+00:0008b+00:00Sun, 17 Aug 2008 06:42:32 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am08

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30,000 still displaced in North Cotabato–governor

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By Joel Guinto
First Posted 13:28:00 08/17/2008

CAMP SIONGCO, Shariff Kabunsuan–Some 30,000 people in North Cotabato have yet to return to their homes several days after military offensives flushed out an estimated 500 Moro rebels from 15 villages in the province, its governor said.

“Tahimik ngayon, but hindi natin masyadong maibalik pa yung normalcy [It’s quiet now, but we can’t completely return to normalcy]. Hopefully, anytime soon we’ll return to normal,” Governor Jesus Sacdalan told reporters here.

Sacdalan the province was not lacking in relief supplies, after it received more from the national government, and international organizations such as the World Food Program, United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef), and Oxfam.

At the height of the fighting early last week, as many as 160,000 people were forced to flee to evacuation centers, or to homes of relatives in villages not seized by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

The military launched air strikes and artillery fire from the round, forcing MILF commander Umbra Kato and his men to retreat. The rebels had allegedly seized farmlands and livestock and burned houses.

“Right now, they [MILF] are no longer in the areas. There are no indicators that they’ll be coming back,” said Chief Superintendent Felizardo Serapio, the chief of a police task force involved in the offensives said in a separate interview here.

Sacdalan and Serapio spoke to reporters on the sidelines of Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff General Alexander Yano’s visit here late Saturday afternoon. Yano commended troops for a “job well done.”

Sacdalan said detachments or “strong points” manned by the Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH), chaired jointly by the military and the MILF, and the International Monitoring Team (IMT), a multi-nation contingent of ceasefire monitors have been set up to prevent Kato’s men from returning.

Municipal mayors and village chiefs identified the areas where the detachments would be set up.

The 15 poor farming villages occupied by the MILF are in the towns of Pigkawayan, Aleosan, Libungan, Midsayap, and Pikit.

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Written by joelguinto

Sun+00:002008-08-17T06:40:38+00:00+00:0008b+00:00Sun, 17 Aug 2008 06:40:38 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am08

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Gov’t to use ceasefire mechanism for MILF commander’s arrest

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By Joel Guinto
First Posted 13:20:00 08/17/2008

CAMP SIONGCO, Shariff Kabunsuan–Security forces will still rely on ceasefire mechanisms to arrest a Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) commander involved in the invasion of 15 villages in North Cotabato.

Police are preparing multiple murder, arson, and robbery charges against Umbra Kato and his men from the MILF 105th Base Command. Military offensives dislodged some 500 rebels from the occupied villages last week.

“We will use the mechanism of the AHJAG [Ad-Hoc Joint Action Group],” Chief Superintendent Felizardo Serapio told reporters here, when asked how police would arrest Kato.

Told that the mandate of the AHJAG expired last year, Serapio said: “No, the mechanism is still there.”

The MILF has not surrendered its men who were involved in the ambush of Marine troops in Al-Barkah town, Basilan province last July 10, 2007, despite a government ultimatum.

Fourteen Marines were killed in the attack, 10 of who were beheaded. The MILF has blamed the al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf for the beheadings, but admitted to engaging the Marines for encroaching on its territory in Ginanta village.

The MILF also did not surrender a certain Commander Basit Usman who was linked to a string of bomb attacks in Central Mindanao in October 2006.

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Written by joelguinto

Sun+00:002008-08-17T06:39:53+00:00+00:0008b+00:00Sun, 17 Aug 2008 06:39:53 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am08

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Globe Telecom cell tower bombed in Surigao del Norte

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By Joel Guinto
First Posted 11:28:00 08/17/2008

MANILA, Philippines–Suspected communist rebels bombed a Globe Telecom cellular communication tower in the southern province of Surigao del Norte before dawn Sunday, causing a signal interruption, a regional military spokesman said.

At around 4 a.m., an undetermined number of New People’s Army (NPA) rebels barged into the cell site compound and detonated a bomb in its cabin, said Major Armand Rico, information officer of the Armed Forces Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom).

“The site is down and there is no signal at this time,” Rico said in a text message to reporters.

The Globe Telecom facility is located about a kilometer away from the Claver municipal police station, Rico said.

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Written by joelguinto

Sun+00:002008-08-17T06:38:49+00:00+00:0008b+00:00Sun, 17 Aug 2008 06:38:49 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am08

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