ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Jan. 31, 2009) - Suspected Moro rebels torched construction equipment in the southern Philippines after failing to collect extortion money, officials said.
Officials said gunmen believed to be members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the country's largest Muslim rebel group, had been extorting money from the firms in Zamboanga del Norte and warned of further destruction unless they are paid a monthly protection fee, the military said.
Lt. Steffani Cacho, a regional military spokeswoman, said the rebels were resorting to extortion to “project their power and sustain their daily operations.”
She said the rebels burned a truck and backhoe in the province.
“We call on the MILF hierarchy to address these issues and punish their erring commanders and subordinates,” she said.
The MILF denied the accusations, saying, criminal gangs are preying on business firms in the province.
Manila is seeking to resume peace talks with the MILF which stalled last year when the Supreme Court struck down a draft accord that would have given the rebels autonomy over their own Muslim homeland in the south.
The MILF has been fighting to set up an Islamic state in the southern Philippines for more than three decades. The group signed a ceasefire with the government in 2001 to negotiate peace. (Mindanao Examiner)