Saturday, September 26, 2009

Rebels attack marines post in Southern Philippines

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / September 26, 2009) – Gunmen attacked a marine detachment in the southern Philippine province of Sulu where troops are battling Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiya militants, officials said on Saturday.

Officials said the marines repulsed the attack which occurred late Friday in the village of Bato-Bato in Indanan town, scene of last week’s fierce clashes that left 34 militants and eight soldiers dead.

“Our marines repulsed the attack. No casualties were reported on either side,” said Marine Major Ramon David Hontiveros, a spokesman for the Western Mindanao Command headquarters in Zamboanga City.

Hontiveros did not say who were behind the attack, but the town is a stronghold of Moro National Liberation Front rebels who aided Abu Sayyaf forces in last week’s clashes.

The MNLF accused the military of targeting them in the guise of pursuing the Abu Sayyaf in Indanan town.

It said security forces shelled their camp on September 20, although there were no reports of casualties. The military attack coincided with the Eid festival which signals the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.

A Moro rebel leader, Madarang Sali, deputy supreme commander of the Bangsamoro National Liberation Front, said the military offensive targeted a stronghold of Khaid Ajibun, a senior leader of the MNLF in Camp Marang near the village of Talibang.

“The Muslims are celebrating the Hari Raya, but what greeted us are bombings from military aircrafts,” he said.

Sali accused the military of terrorizing the Muslims in Sulu, an accusation strongly denied by the armed forces.

“The Bangsamoro National Liberation Army declares publicly and calls and manifests our Islamic solidarity behind our brothers-in-Islam and to support the declaration of Jihad against the Philippine Government and Armed Forces of the Philippines for the restoration of sovereign states of the Bangsamoro Homeland. There are no terrorists in our homeland, but we are being terrorized by Armed Forces of the Philippines,” he said.

The MNLF signed a peace deal with Manila in September 1996, but many of its members were disgruntled by the agreement and accusing the government of failing to honor the provisions of the accord.

Under the peace agreement, Manila would have to provide a mini-Marshal Plan to spur economic development in Muslim areas in the south and livelihood and housing assistance to tens of thousands of former rebels to uplift their poor living standards.

Many of its members have either joined the Abu Sayyaf or Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the country’s largest Muslim rebel group which is fighting the past three decades for self-determination. (Mindanao Examiner)

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