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

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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

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Written by joelguinto

TueUTC2008-08-19T08:21:01+00:00UTC08bUTCTue, 19 Aug 2008 08:21:01 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am08

Posted in Uncategorized

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