COTABATO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / June 5, 2009) Moro rebels clashed with government troops Friday in the restive Muslim autonomous region in Mindanao, south of the Philippines.
The fighting erupted in the village of Muti in Maguindanao’s Guindulungan town after troops attacked Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels, said Eid Kabalu, a senior MILF leader.
“The fighting was fierce, but we still don’t know if there were casualties on both sides,” he told the Mindanao Examiner.
Kabalu said rebels and soldiers also clashed in the village on Thursday after MILF forces ambushed an army patrol, leaving at least 30 infantrymen dead and wounded. Nine rebels were also injured in the fighting, he said.
“These fighting will not stop because government forces are attacking our positions in Maguindanao,” Kabalu said.
Military officials could not be reached to confirm the MILF reports and telephone calls by journalists to army spokesmen were either ignored or went unanswered.
Maguindanao is one of five provinces under the Muslim autonomous region. The MILF said more than 600,000 people have been displaced by fighting in Mindanao.
President Gloria Arroyo opened peace talks in 2001 with the MILF, the country’s largest Muslim rebel group fighting for independence in Mindanao, but negotiations collapsed in August last year.
The MILF accused Manila of reneging on a Muslim homeland which was initially signed in Malaysia in July. The Supreme Court said the deal was unconstitutional. (Mindanao Examiner)