Saturday, October 31, 2009

Moro rebel killed, 3 soldiers wounded in Sulu clash

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / October 31, 2009) – Security forces clashed Saturday with Moro rebels in the southern Philippine province of Sulu, killing one gunman, but three soldiers were also wounded in the fighting, officials said.

Marine Major General Benjamin Dolorfino, commander of military forces in Mindanao, said the fighting erupted at around 6:45 a.m. on a village in Panamao town. He said soldiers were tracking down rebels when they clashed with gunmen under Moro National Liberation Front leader Habier Malik.

“We have recovered the body of the slain rebel and his weapon, an M16 automatic rifle. Three soldiers were wounded in the fighting,” Dolorfino told the regional newspaper the Mindanao Examiner.

He said Malik’s group has joined forces with Abu Sayyaf militants blamed for the spate of bombings and ambuscades of soldiers in Sulu in recent months.

The Abu Sayyaf was also tagged as behind this week’s grenade attack at a Roman Catholic Church in the capital town of Jolo. The group was also linked to the kidnapping early this year of a Filipino, Italian and Swiss Red Cross workers in Sulu’s Patikul town and freed weeks later in exchange for huge ransom.

The military said dozens of rebels and soldiers, including two US Special Forces specialists, had been killed in fierce clashes in Sulu since September.

Fighting in Sulu erupted between rebels and soldiers after the military mounted fresh offensives against the Abu Sayyaf and Moro rebels in Indanan town. The offensive coincided with the Muslim celebration of the Eid al Fit’r, a day after Islam’s holiest month of Ramadan.

The MNLF has declared a holy war or jihad against the military for disrespecting the Muslims. Different Muslim groups also condemned the attack during the Eid celebration.

Early this month, rebel forces also attacked a major military base in the capital town of Sulu. It was the second time in eight years that rebels attacked the base.

In November 2001, on the eve of the elections in the Muslim autonomous region, Abu Sayyaf militants and rebels loyal to Moro National Liberation Front chieftain Nur Misuari attacked the camp in Jolo and another group raided a village in Zamboanga City that left more than 100 people dead.

Misuari signed a peace deal with Manila in September 1996 ending decades of bloody secessionist war. After the peace agreement was signed, Misuari became the governor of the Muslim autonomous region in Mindanao. The Muslim autonomous region was meant to implement the 1976 Tripoli Agreement between Manila and the MNLF.

But despite the peace accord, there was a widespread disillusionment with the weak autonomy they were granted. And Misuari accused the government of reneging on the peace agreement.

Presently, the governor of the Muslims autonomous region, Zaldy Ampatuan, a close ally of President Gloria Arroyo, is not a member of the MNLF which is said to be a violation of the peace deal signed during President Fidel Ramos administration.

Many former guerrillas were disgruntled with the peace deal, saying, the Arroyo government failed to comply with some of its provisions and uplift their standards of living. They accused Manila of failing to develop war-torn areas in the south.

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.

After the rebellion in Jolo and Zamboanga, Misuari then escaped by boat to Malaysia, where he had been arrested and deported to the Philippines and jailed.

Misuari also ran twice for governor in Sulu even while under detention, but lost. He also supported President Gloria Arroyo's election bid and her allies in the Senate and Congress in 2004 and again in 2007 in exchange for promises that he would be pardoned and freed. He was eventually set free. (Mindanao Examiner)

No comments: