|Daily Times - Site Edition||Friday, December 26, 2008|
Ten killed in rebel attacks in Philippines, says military
* MILF leader denies attacks, accuses army of provoking Muslim separatist group
COTABATO: Ten people were killed when Muslim separatist guerrillas launched attacks and occupied a village in the southern Philippines, military and police officials said on Thursday.
Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels attacked Midtungo village in the southern island of Mindanao with rocket-propelled grenades and assault rifles on Tuesday, military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Julieto Ando said. The militants killed nine residents and wounded another, he said, updating an earlier toll of six after three more deaths were discovered.
In a separate attack, a passenger of a motorboat passing near the town of Kalamansig was killed after suspected MILF fighters shot at the vessel on Wednesday, provincial police chief Ben-Hur Mongao said. As many as 400 families fled Midtungo after the attack there, town social welfare officer Edmund Corder said.
Mongao said the MILF fighters had occupied Midtungo until Christmas day on Thursday but that they had withdrawn by noon after the army, police and pro-government militiamen cordoned off the area. “The Philippine National Police is still at the site and we cannot say that it is totally clear,” as policemen searched the village for stragglers and booby-traps, said Mongao. Evacuated residents had taken refuge in the town hall and were still being cared for by local officials, Mongao said, although he could not say how many had fled. MILF fighters also attacked other communities in the south, firing assault rifles and mortars on Tuesday and Wednesday, the military said. A home-made bomb, believed to have been planted by the MILF, was found on a highway in the town of Datu Saudi Ampatuan in Mindanao on Thursday but it was defused by the military, local commander Colonel Marlou Salazar said.“It’s believed to be intended for a military convoy,” Salazar added.
Attacks: MILF spokesman Eid Kabalu denied there had been an attack and accused the military of trying to provoke the separatist group. He said the soldiers had been building up forces in the area for no reason, leading to an exchange of gunfire. But he denied any attacks on civilians.
The government suspended peace talks with the MILF after the group launched attacks across Mindanao in August to protest a court order stopping a deal that would have given the rebels control over a Muslim autonomous region. More than 600,000 people were displaced in fighting that followed, while dozens of civilians, guerrillas and soldiers have been killed. afp
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