Deadline all the time

breaking news stories, photos, and video

Archive for August 19th, 2008

MILF’s Umbra Kato reportedly wounded in clash, says military

leave a comment »

By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 21:50:00 08/19/2008

MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATE) A Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) commander who allegedly led the occupation of 15 North Cotabato villages early this month, Ameril Umbra Kato, was reportedly wounded in an encounter in Shariff Kabunsuan province on Tuesday, the military said.

Two of Kato’s men were also killed after they were ambushed by unidentified armed men in Kabuntalan town at around 1:20 p.m., said Major Armand Rico, spokesman of the Armed Forces Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom).

“As per our report, grabe daw ang tama niya [he was seriously wounded]. His men carried him as they escaped,” Rico said in a phone interview.

Troops in the area assumed blocking positions to prevent Kato and his men from escaping.

However, Lieutenant General Cardozo Luna, the AFP Vice Chief of Staff and concurrent Task Force Mindanao commander, could not confirm that Kato was hurt.

But Luna said intelligence information pointed to the presence of Kato’s 105th Base Command in Kabuntalan.

“We cannot say that he was wounded, but according to intelligence reports, he was there,” he said, adding, “These are sketchy reports.”

Luna said troops from the 6th Infantry Battalion, who were on patrol on the Rio Grande de Mindanao riverbanks in Kabuntalan town, reported that they encountered armed men on board two pump boats.

“The men on one of the boats opened fire, sparking a firefight. One of the boats capsized,” Luna said, adding the occupants of the watercrafts escaped or were carried by strong currents.

He could not confirm whether or not Kato and his men were on board the two pump boats, but he acknowledged that Kabuntalan was the “area” of the 105th Base Command.

A spokesman for the MILF did not return calls seeking comment.

Kato and his men seized 15 villages in Lanao del Norte earlier this month, burning houses and displacing thousands of civilians. Military operations dislodged them from the areas. The fighting left two soldiers and an estimated 31 MILF rebels killed.

View article as posted on INQUIRER.net

Advertisements

Written by joelguinto

Tue+00:002008-08-19T15:39:34+00:00+00:0008b+00:00Tue, 19 Aug 2008 15:39:34 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm08

Posted in Uncategorized

Security tightened in Mindanao urban centers, Metro

leave a comment »

By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 15:34:00 08/19/2008

MANILA, Philippines — Security in Mindanao’s urban centers has been beefed up to meet any more threats of attack by Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) fighters who mounted assaults in Lanao del Norte province Monday and then retreated in the face of a government counteroffensive, police and military officials said Tuesday..

And while there is “no specific threat” to Metro Manila, the security alert in the national capital region has been raised to the highest level so troops will be prepared for any eventuality, Chief Superintendent Nicanor Bartolome, spokesman of the Philippine National Police (PNP) said.

Captain Carlo Ferrer, spokesman of the Armed Forces National Capital Region Command (NCRCom) said the military has also placed its Metro Manila units on the highest alert.

“We are looking at certain major cities and towns that are vulnerable and [could be] possible targets, and we are now in the process of securing these places,” said Brigadier General Jorge Segovia, acting chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) command center.

Segovia refused to identify the areas under threat, saying he did not want to cause “undue alarm.”

A week after heavy fighting in North Cotabato province, triggered by the occupation of several villages by the MILF, the rebels again struck, ambushing an Army convoy in Lanao del Sur on Sunday and then attacking five towns in Lanao del Norte on Monday.

The two days of fighting in the Lanao provinces left a policeman, 10 soldiers and 28 civilians dead, and 16 soldiers missing, Segovia said, although other reports placed the death toll at around 41.

Another soldier is being held hostage by the retreating rebels, Segovia added.

“The fact that we remained on alert and the fact that the Interior secretary [Ronaldo Puno] ordered local chief executives and the police to establish community defenses is already a sign that we might see other attacks,” he said.

“If this should happen — we hope not — it will be more of the same,” Segovia said, referring to the shooting of civilians, ambuscades and arson that marked the hostilities in the Lanao provinces and in North Cotabato.

Although no additional soldiers will be sent to Metro Manila, Ferrer said troops deployed to airports and seaports would implement “stricter security measures” and “intensify intelligence gathering.”

The NCRCom would also reinforce the Metro Manila police if requested, Ferrer added.

On December 30, 2000, alleged MILF member Muklis Yunos, with the help of Jemaah Islamiyah member Fathur Rohman al-Ghozi, bombed the Light Rail Transit in downtown Manila, leaving close to two dozen people dead.

The attack came months after the military mounted an “all-out war” against the MILF in Central Mindanao.

View article as posted on INQUIRER.net

Written by joelguinto

Tue+00:002008-08-19T08:24:57+00:00+00:0008b+00:00Tue, 19 Aug 2008 08:24:57 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am08

Posted in Uncategorized

AFP chief asks US to postpone 50th defense board meet

leave a comment »

To give ‘priority’ to Mindanao

By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 15:04:00 08/19/2008

MANILA, Philippines — Armed Forces chief General Alexander Yano has postponed a trip to Hawaii for the 50th annual meeting of the Mutual Defense Board of the Philippines and the United States to focus his attention on the fighting in Mindanao, the military spokesman said.

Yano asked his counterpart at the US Pacific Command to postpone the meeting, which was supposed to run from Tuesday until Thursday, Lieutenant Colonel Ernesto Torres Jr., chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) public affairs office, said.

Torres said the postponement of the trip showed the military offensive in Mindanao against Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels who had mounted attacks over the past few days, were being given “priority attention” by the AFP chief.

Yano, his deputies, and the chiefs of the Army, Navy, and Air Force, were scheduled to leave the country for Hawaii on Monday, Torres said.

But on that day, MILF rebels attacked several towns in Lanao del Norte province, retreating after the military mounted a counterattacks. A day earlier, the rebels ambushed an Army convoy in Lanao del Sur.

View article as posted on INQUIRER.net

Written by joelguinto

Tue+00:002008-08-19T08:24:06+00:00+00:0008b+00:00Tue, 19 Aug 2008 08:24:06 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am08

Posted in Uncategorized

Bilateral review on MILF talks ‘not possible’–negotiator

leave a comment »

SC ruling on MOA sign of gov’t ‘insincerity’

By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 14:44:00 08/19/2008

MANILA, Philippines — A unilateral plan by government to review closely peace negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is acceptable but not a “bilateral review,” the head of the MILF peace panel said Tuesday.

At the same time, Mohager Iqbal said the Supreme Court decision to stop the signing of an agreement over ancestral domain between the Arroyo administration and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front was a sign of “insincerity” by the government.

“They can unilaterally review, but as to a bilateral review, I don’t think that is possible,” said Iqbal when asked for comment on the government’s plan to “very closely review” the status of the MILF talks amid the spate of attacks staged by some members of the Moro rebel group on several provinces in Mindanao.

Iqbal said the ambuscades, which started over the weekend, showed the growing frustration of MILF commanders on the pace of the negotiations that was to have moved forward in Putrajaya, Malaysia earlier this month had the high court not issued a temporary restraining order against the MOA.

“What can be more insincere than what happened in Malaysia,” Iqbal said in a phone interview, adding, “The root of everything happening on the ground is the MOA [memorandum of agreement].”

But at the same time, Iqbal said those who staged attacks in Mindanao would face “disciplinary action,” citing Commander Bravo that led the fighting in several towns in Lanao del Norte.

Asked to describe the status of the talks in view of the TRO and the Mindanao hostilities, Iqbal said: “The situation is very fluid.”

View article as posted on INQUIRER.net

Written by joelguinto

Tue+00:002008-08-19T08:23:18+00:00+00:0008b+00:00Tue, 19 Aug 2008 08:23:18 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am08

Posted in Uncategorized

Retreating MILF holding soldier hostage–officials

leave a comment »

Civilian captives released

By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 13:23:00 08/19/2008

MANILA, Philippines — Fighters of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) who retreated from Lanao del Norte after launching attacks in the province on Monday have freed their civilian hostages, but are holding on to a captured soldier, officials said.

“Wala na [There are no more]. They are all accounted for,” Chief Superintendent Nicanor Bartolome, national police spokesman, said of civilians used as a “human shield” by the rebels as they escaped from a military counteroffensive.

Bartolome said the rebels left the civilians in Tungcal town, North Cotabato.

The acting chief of the Armed Forces command center, Brigadier General Jorge Segovia, did not give the identity of the enlisted man held hostage.

View article as posted on INQUIRER.net

Written by joelguinto

Tue+00:002008-08-19T08:22:11+00:00+00:0008b+00:00Tue, 19 Aug 2008 08:22:11 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am08

Posted in Uncategorized

Yano vows no let-up in pursuit operations vs MILF rebels

leave a comment »

By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 07:48:00 08/19/2008

MANILA, Philippines — (UPDATE) Armed Forces Chief Alexander Yano has vowed to pursue Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels who attacked several towns in Lanao del Norte and surrounding provinces, as the number of people displaced by the fighting has reached close to 200,000.

At the same time, Yano warned the MILF that the military was not buying its “convenient excuse” that attacks on civilian communities, like what happened in Lanao, was not sanctioned by the leadership of the Moro rebel group.

Should the rebels fail to rein in their forces, Yano said “then, government will certainly control them.”

Yano said the hunt for the rebels was in compliance with President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s directive to security forces to “defend every inch” of Philippine territory.

“We will pursue and take aggressive actions against the perpetrators of these dastardly acts against innocent civilians,” Yano said in a television interview.

“We will file appropriate charges and other legal actions against the criminal group in coordination with the police. We will continue with the operations. It will not stop with the clearing of the areas occupied by them,” he said.

Lieutenant General Cardozo Luna, AFP Vice Chief of Staff, issued a similar statement, saying, “We will not stop until we catch up with them and bring them to justice for what they did.”

Yano said the military would continue to secure communities in the south, especially the urban centers, against the MILF, whose leadership was engaged in peace negotiations with the government.

A week after heavy fighting in North Cotabato province, the MILF ambushed an Army convoy in Lanao del Sur on Sunday and attacked five towns in Lanao del Norte on Monday.

The two days of fighting has left a policeman, 10 soldiers and 28 civilians dead, and 16 soldiers missing. One soldier has also been held hostage by the rebels who were forced to retreat in the face of a military offensive, said Brigadier General Jorge Segovia, AFP command center acting chief.

Segovia said the fighting has displaced 190,633 people, 123,137 of whom fled to Ozamiz City in neighboring Misamis Occidental province.

Luna said he believed that the attacks were staged by the MILF’s “dirty tricks” arm to pressure the government into signing a memorandum of agreement that would expand the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) into the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE).

“They’re using these violent actions and these civilians as a way to pressure the government into signing this agreement, and I don’t think there is anything right about it,” Luna said.

The Supreme Court has issued a temporary restraining order that stopped the signing of the MOA in Malaysia earlier this month.

In an interview also on local television, MILF civil military affairs chief Eid Kabalu said their leaders were “exerting efforts to pacify” commanders Bravo and Umbra Kato, allegedly behind the attacks on Lanao del Norte, and North Cotabato respectively.

Kabalu said Bravo and Kato were “restless” over the possibility that peace negotiations would fail.

View article as posted on INQUIRER.net

Written by joelguinto

Tue+00:002008-08-19T08:21:01+00:00+00:0008b+00:00Tue, 19 Aug 2008 08:21:01 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am08

Posted in Uncategorized

‘Karen’ strengthens, heads towards N. Luzon

leave a comment »

By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 06:34:00 08/19/2008

MANILA, Philippines — Typhoon “Karen” (international codename: Nuri) strengthened further as it maintained its course towards Northern Luzon, the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said Tuesday.

At 10 a.m., the eye of the storm, which packs maximum sustained winds of 130 kilometers per hour with gusts of up to 160 kilometers per hour, was located 450 kilometers east southeast of Tuguegarao City, PAGASA said.

Moving west at 22 kilometers per hour, the storm was forecast to be over Cagayan province by Wednesday morning, 190 kilometers northwest of Laoag City by Thursday morning, and 510 kilometers west northwest of Laoag City by Friday morning, it said.

Public storm signal number 3 (100-185 kilometer per hour winds) was raised in the provinces of Cagayan and Isabela, while signal number 2 (60-100 kilometer perm hour winds) was raised in the Batanes, Babuyan and Calaya islands, and in the provinces of Apayao, Kalin

View article as posted on INQUIRER.net

Written by joelguinto

Tue+00:002008-08-19T08:20:05+00:00+00:0008b+00:00Tue, 19 Aug 2008 08:20:05 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am08

Posted in Uncategorized