MAGUINDANAO, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Feb. 3, 2011) – The Philippine military deployed more troops to pacify two warning rebel factions in the restive region of Mindanao, officials said Thursday.
Officials said land dispute triggered the clashes between a Moro Islamic Liberation Front commander and a leader of the Moro National Liberation Front in North Cotabato’s Kabacan town.
“We have deployed more forces in the area to secure the civilians and pacify the fighting,” said Major Marlowe Patria, a spokesman for the Army’s 6th Infantry Division.
Patria said more than 800 families had fled their homes for fear they would be caught in the cross-fire. “More than 800 families have sought refuge to safer areas because of the fighting. We have attended to the needs of the evacuees,” he said.
It was unknown how many people were killed in the clashes, Patria said.
“We still don’t know how many people were killed in the fighting. We don’t know if there were casualties on both sides. It is very difficult to gather information about the casualties if there were any because of the situation in the area,” he said.
Other reports said at least 13 people had died in the clashes since the fighting broke out last month. Patria denied the reports.
Eid Kabalu, an MILF spokesman, said they also have no reports about casualties in the fighting, but admitted that more than 2,000 villagers have fled their homes because of the sporadic clashes between the protagonists.
“They are fighting over an ancestral land and this is aggravated by long time family feud between the two warring commanders,” he said.
Kabalu said they are trying to pacify the protagonists and have ordered other rebel commander to stay away from the fighting. “We don’t want this fighting to escalate and we want to resolve it peacefully and the MILF is working on it now,” he said.
The MILF is a break-away faction of the larger MNLF group which signed a peace accord with the government in September 1996, ending decades of bloody secessionist war in Mindanao.
But despite the deal, many MNLF members were disgruntled with the agreement and have joined the MILF, now the country’s largest Muslim rebel group fighting for self-determination. (Mindanao Examiner)