Wednesday, June 23, 2010

2 MNLF men killed in new fighting in Southern Philippines

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / June 23, 2010) – Two Moro rebels were killed and four government soldiers wounded in a series of fighting in the southern Filipino province of Sulu, officials said Wednesday.
Officials said the fighting which began on Tuesday had killed two members of the Moro National Liberation Front in Talipao town where security forces captured a rebel encampment.

The fighting broke out after MNLF rebels and Abu Sayyaf militants attacked soldiers sent to work on a road project in the village of Tuyang. The Western Mindanao Command blamed MNLF leader Khabir Malik and Abu Sayyaf commander Yasser Igasan for the fighting.

“The operation was triggered when some combined partisan armed groups, rogue MNLF under Khabir Malik and ASG under Yasser Igasan resisted government-initiated development projects in southern Talipao,” it said in a statement released on Wednesday.

It said Malik also harassed military and government surveyors last month in Talipao town where a road project is underway to connect several villages to the town of Maimbung.

“Malik was previously reported by civilians on his opposition to road projects, and further warned construction workers not to pursue with these development plans,” the Western Mindanao Command said.

In Sulu, Brigadier General Rustico Guerrero, the local military chief, said fighting began at around 10 a.m. and erupted again later in the day after troops intercepted rebel forces headed by MNLF commanders Nidzmi Jabar, Maas Ejan and Jahid Susukan, and Abu Sayyaf militants.

“We cannot afford to delay progress that is already long overdue. The standpoint of these lawless elements in resisting government-initiated socio-economic and humanitarian projects is anti-people and counter progressive. Unless we will remove this perspective from the equation, hope for peace and development in Sulu is futile,” Rustico said.

He said troops also clashed with followers of a local politician who mistook security forces as their enemies, but there were no reports of casualties in the fighting.

The Western Mindanao Command under General Benjamin Dolorfino said Malik has a string of warrants of arrest and that the government put up a P1 million bounty for his capture.

Malik’s group had previously held hostage Dolorfino and Defense Undersecretary Ramon Santos, including more than a dozen soldiers in February 2007 while visiting Sulu province. Malik then demanded the release of jailed MNLF chieftain Nur Misuari in exchange for the hostages. The rebels wanted Misuari, who was then facing rebellion charges, freed so he can attend an important conference between the Organization of Islamic Conference, the Philippines and the MNLF in Jeddah in Saudi Arabia.

Misuari had signed a peace deal with Manila in September 1996 ending more than 20 years of bloody fighting in the southern Philippines. After the peace agreement was signed, Misuari became the governor of the Muslim autonomous region.

But many former rebels were disgruntled with the accord, saying, the government failed to comply with some of its provisions and uplift their standards of living. They accused the government of failing to develop the war-torn areas in the south, which remain in mired in poverty, heavily militarized and dependent financially on Manila.

Some of the disgruntled former rebels have either joined the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the country's largest separatist rebel group, and the smaller and ruthless Abu Sayyaf group.

In November 2001, on the eve of the regional elections, Misuari accused the government of reneging on the peace agreement, and launched a new rebellion in Sulu and Zamboanga City, where more than 100 people were killed. Misuari escaped by boat to Malaysia, but was arrested there and deported to the Philippines.

Under the peace agreement, Manila would 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. And Muslims in the South are most likely to fight for or support an armed separatist front when they perceive no alternative means to overcome discrimination and improve their living conditions.

Misuari was eventually released in 2008 after Manila dropped all charges against him in return for his political support to President Gloria Arroyo. (Mindanao Examiner)

No comments: