Thursday, February 10, 2011

Rebels torch houses, school in Mindanao

COTABATO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Feb. 10, 2011) – Muslim rebels fighting another faction clashed in the southern Philippines and left one guerilla dead as troops tried, but failed to pacify the warring groups, officials said on Thursday.

Officials said Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels also attacked Wednesday a group of rival faction of the Moro National Liberation Front in the village of Nangan in North Cotabato’s Kabacan town.

Rebels led by Kineg Inalang also torched over a dozen houses, including a government school, in the village which was previously held by MNLF forces headed by Commander Matanog.

“Fighting between the two groups broke out last month and sporadic clashes continued until last week and only stopped after the military deployed troops in the town, said Army Major Marlowe Patria, a spokesman for the 6th Infantry Division.

“The military and representatives from both the MILF and the MNLF are still working out to insert respective peace keeping forces to stop the clashes and facilitate at once the resumption of talks between the two warring armed groups,” he added.

He said army soldiers were sent to the town to help local government officials attend to the needs of villagers who fled their homes and are now in temporary refugee shelters.

The military said land dispute triggered the clashes between the two groups that forced hundreds of families to flee their villages for fear they would be trapped in the fighting.

Officials last week said at least 6 people had from the clashes.

Eid Kabalu, an MILF spokesman, said they are trying to pacify the protagonists and have ordered other rebel commanders 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.

The fighting coincided with the peace talks between the MILF and Manila in Kuala Lumpur. Malaysia is brokering the 10-year peace negotiations in an effort to put an end to decades of bloody secessionist fighting in the troubled, but mineral-rich region of Mindanao. (Mindanao Examiner)

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