Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Troops foil bridge bombing, but communication relay tower also blasted in Southern Philippines

Government soldiers foil the bombing of a bridge in Sulu's Indanan town after they recovered two homemade explosives planted by suspected Abu Sayyaf militants who are also blamed for the bombing of two communication relay towers of Smart Communications and Globe Telecom in the province. (Mindanao Examiner Photo / Nickee Butlangan).

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / October 20, 2009) – Troops foiled the bombing of another bridge in the Muslim autonomous province of Sulu in the southern Philippines, but rebels also blasted a communication relay tower and cutting off vital mobile phone services in the area, officials said.

Officials said patrolling troops recovered before dawn two improvised explosives planted under a bridge in the town of Indanan, where Abu Sayyaf militants recently bombed another bridge.

Regional military spokesman Marine Major Ramon David Hontiveros said the bombs were made from ammonium nitrate, a banned chemical fertilizer widely used by terrorists in manufacturing homemade explosives.

The foiled attack came hours after rebels bombed a mobile communication relay tower of Globe Telecom in the village of Wanni Pyanjihan in Parang town. “Operatives are increasing security measures in Sulu,” he said

Last week, rebels also bombed two bridges in Sulu’s Talipao and Indanan towns and another communication relay tower of Smart Communications also in Indanan.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but the military previously tagged the Abu Sayyaf and Moro National Liberation Front rebels in the spate of bombings and ambuscades of soldiers in Sulu.

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, which started on the 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)

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