Monday, November 27, 2006

Killing Of Muslim Girl Sparks Fire Fight In South RP

MAGUINDANAO (Juan Magtanggol / 27 Nov) – Moro Islamic Liberation Front soldiers clashed with government forces after a militia commander allegedly attacked three people, killing a six-year old girl in the southern Philippines, a rebel spokesman said Monday.

Eid Kabalu said the fighting broke out late Sunday in the farming village of Dapiawan in Datu Piang town, where government militias earlier attacked a Muslim woman, Faiza Adam, and her six-year old daughter. “The girl was instantly killed,” he told the Mindanao Examiner.

Prior to the attack, militias also ambushed a rebel leader, Ibrahim Kanapia, wounding his baby, in the neighboring village of Matia. “The attacks were obviously planned and these triggered the fighting,” Kabalu said, adding, Kanapia and Adam are relatives.

He said Kanapia’s group attacked the militias under Taib Munca and torched their detachment in Dapiawan village in retaliation to the killing. He said the fighting may have been triggered by clan war between militias and rebels.

The Army’s 6th Infantry Division said five people were wounded in the rebel attack and they also burned and ransacked more than a dozen houses owned by farmers in the village.

It protested the MILF raid on the village, saying, it was a violation of the six-year old truce between the government and the rebel group. “The attack is a violation of the cease-fire agreement. We have submitted to the government peace panel our reports about this incident,” an army spokesman Lt. Col. Julieto Ando said in a separate interview.

He said the Malaysia-led truce observers should investigate the rebel attack.

Manila opened up peace talks in 2001 with the MILF, the largest Muslim rebel group fighting for independence in the southern Philippines.

Malaysia is brokering peace talks between the Filipino government and the MILF, but negotiations ended in September in Kuala Lumpur with both sides failing to sign any agreement on the most contentious issue -- ancestral domain -- which refers to the rebel demand for territory that will constitute a Muslim homeland.

It is the single most important issue in the peace negotiations before the rebel group can reach a political settlement.

Government peace negotiators previously offered the MILF the Muslim autonomous region, which is composed of Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi which are among the poorest in the country torn by strife and clan wars since its creation in 1989.

The ancestral domain covers the whole of Muslim autonomous region and other areas in Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga Sibugay, North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat and Sarangani provinces where there are large communities of Muslims and indigenous tribes. And even Palawan Island in central Philippines.

Peace talks between the government and MILF started in January 1997 but the absence of a neutral third party bogged down the initiative. It was only on March 24, 2001, after the all-out war against the MILF declared by former President Joseph Estrada that Malaysia, at the behest of the Philippine government, facilitated the talks.

However, in February 2003, despite the avowed all-peace policy of President Arroyo, an all-out war was again declared against the rebels, but both sides later agreed to resume peace talks. Just this year, President Arroyo said that 80% of the peace talks have been completed and that permanent peace in Mindanao is within reach. (Mindanao Examiner)

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