COTABATO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / June 6, 2009) – Suspected Moro rebels set off three improvised explosives Saturday in the restive southern Filipino province of Maguindanao, scene of fierce clashes in recent months, a military report said.
The report said the roadside bombings occurred in the town of Datu Saudi Ampatuan, where Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels and government forces previously clashed.
The military blamed the attacks on the MILF, the country’s largest Muslim rebel group fighting for independence in Mindanao.
The MILF has denied any involvement in the latest attacks. It said soldiers could have detonated the bombs and put the blame on rebels. “The MILF has nothing to do with the explosions; it could be the handiwork of the soldiers to discredit us,” Eid Kabalu, a senior MILF leader, told the Mindanao Examiner.
He also accused troops, from the 6th Infantry Division, as behind the burning Saturday of many houses owned by Muslims in the neighboring town of Guidulungan.
“The soldiers torched the houses after they failed to find any rebels in the area. Muslims are fleeing their homes because they are scared of the soldiers who are notorious for their human rights records,” Kabalu said.
There was no immediate statement from the 6th Infantry Division and its spokesmen did not answer calls from journalists.
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)