August 14, 2008
Major-General Armando Cunanan, a military commander in Mindanao, said troops had driven out rebels from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) from villages they had occupied in
“Our troops have virtually liberated these areas,” Cunanan told reporters, adding the rebels had been forced to move back to the marshlands or deeper into the mountains in adjacent Shariff Kabunsuan province in the southern
“We’re sending our bomb disposal teams to make sure all villages are safe from booby traps and landmines left behind by the retreating rebels.”
The rebels launched their attack last week after the Philippines Supreme Court halted a deal to create a new, larger homeland for Muslims that would give them more autonomy in the resource-rich south.
Muslims in the south of the largely Catholic country have been seeking some form of independence for decades in a conflict that has killed more than 1,20,000 people, but as details of a secretive land deal began emerging last month, Christians took the matter to court.
Cunanan said some of the displaced farmers had been allowed to check their homes and farms, but most of the 1,60,000 displaced farmers were afraid to return. Only around 10 per cent of the displaced are estimated to be in evacuation centres with the rest either camped outside or staying with relatives.
On Wednesday, the UN said it was concerned about a humanitarian crisis. “The Secretary-General appeals for restraint, protection of all civilians as well as access for the provision of speedy humanitarian assistance to the affected population,” the statement read. Most aid agencies have been unable to access the region because of the fighting.
“The Red Cross has finally been able to get in. We’re preparing to feed 85,000 people for the next five days,” said Richard Gordon, the head of the
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Philippine rebels abandon occupied villages
13 August 2008
Nearly 3,000 troops and police, backed by bomber aircraft, regained control of two occupied villages in
The fierce exchanges of artillery and machine-gun fire that began with Sunday's government assault have eased, but the crackle of gunfire could still be heard in some areas, Serapio said.
At least two soldiers were killed and 14 others wounded. An army spokesman, Maj. Armand Rico, said up to 31 rebels may have been killed, but the rebels said only four of their men died.
‘They cannot withstand the pressure,’ said army Lt. Gen. Cardozo Luna, who helped oversee the assaults. ‘They've been beaten black and blue, that's why they are withdrawing.’
The latest flare-up in fighting in the predominantly Roman Catholic nation's south _ the traditional homeland of minority Muslims _ comes at a crucial time in ongoing peace talks between the government and the rebels, who have been waging a decades-long rebellion for self-rule.
About a hundred retreating guerrillas were seen crossing a river Tuesday in a marshland toward Maguindanao, the predominantly Muslim province where the rebels have key strongholds. A hundred more escaped at night Monday ‘carrying many wounded and dead (in) white cloth tied to tree branches,’ he said.
Troops and police checked some of the abandoned villages for booby traps, and one soldier was wounded when he stepped on a land mine apparently planted by the rebels, Serapio said. They found burned-out homes and looted farms, raising questions of how quickly the many evacuees could return to their normal lives.
‘We could still hear gunfire in some areas,’ Serapio told The Associated Press by telephone from Takipan, an abandoned village in
Social Welfare Secretary Ezperanza Cabral said most of the displaced villagers, estimated at 159,123 in 56 villages, took shelter with relatives. The rest were housed in 33 evacuation centers.
Cabral played down fears of a humanitarian crisis, saying she would supervise the return of residents to cleared villages and farms that remained mostly intact.
The two sides, which signed a 2003 cease-fire, had reached agreement on the size of a future expanded Muslim homeland. But the signing of the accord was halted last week by the Supreme Court, which acted on a petition filed by Christian politicians wary of losing land and power to Muslims.
An Arab News Editorial:
Tuesday 12 August 2008 (09 Sha`ban 1429)
JUST a week ago, the
The trigger for this collapse of good will was the temporary order by the Supreme Court halting the signing in
Yet something else happened plunging the region back into violence. MILF fighters in five towns in
Those who, for whatever reasons, would scupper the deal that creates the BJE should remember that the Arroyo administration acted in the recognition that after 40 years of bloodshed, there was clearly no military solution to the conflict. Nothing has changed that reality. The renewed violence is thus pointless.
View Source article: http://arabnews.com