COTABATO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / May 5, 2009) – Army soldiers killed at least six Muslim rebels in fierce fighting in the southern Philippines, officials said on Tuesday.
The week-long fighting in Maguindanao, one of five provinces under the Muslim autonomous region in Mindanao, also forced thousands of villagers to flee their homes.
“Pursuit operations are going on in the province. The rebels are now scattered in several areas in Maguindanao,” said Lt. Col. Jonathan Ponce, a spokesman for the Army’s 6th Infantry Division.
Troops were trying to capture several leaders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front blamed for the spate of bombings and attacks on security forces in Maguindanao.
Both sides accused each other of violating a fragile truce signed in 2001. The cease-fire agreement is still enforced despite the collapsed of the peace talks last year.
Peace negotiations broke down after the failed signing of the ancestral domain deal which would have granted some four million Muslims their own homeland in the restive region.
The Supreme Court said the deal was unconstitutional despite an initial agreement signed in Malaysia by government and rebel peace negotiators in July 2008. The MILF accused Manila of reneging on the deal, insisting the agreement was binding. Since then, rebel forces have attacked civilian and military targets in Mindanao. (Mindanao Examiner)