Philippine troops fire howitzer canon on rebels in Mindanao. (Mindanao Examiner Photo)
ZAMBOANGA CITY (Mindanao Examiner / Oct. 22, 2011) – The Philippines’ largest Muslim rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front accused anew government forces of attacking Saturday its camps in the southern province of Zamboanga Sibugay.
The MILF said the military fired several canon rounds and mortar bombs in the village of Labatan in Payao town. It said the shelling started at 5 a.m. while Muslims were praying in the village.
Von Al-Haq, a rebel spokesman, said there was no report of casualties from either the MILF or civilians in the area, but warned further attacks could spark more fighting in Mindanao.
“The Philippine military continue to violate the truce accord and we will file a protest with the cease-fire committee of the (government and MILF) peace panels,” he told the Mindanao Examiner, adding government forces had been shelling the area the past two days.
A homemade bomb also exploded near a school in the town of Margo sa Tubig late Friday, but there was no report of damages or casualties. Authorities would not say whether the bombing was connected to the MILF or not.
But the military said it was targeting a notorious MILF leader, Juaning Abdusalam, tagged as behind the spate of kidnappings for ransom in Mindanao.
Abdusalam was also linked to the July kidnappings of US woman Gerfa Yeatts Lunsmann, 50, who was seized along with her 14-year old son, Kevin Erik Lunsmann, and nephew Romnick Jackaria, 19, from their house on Tictabon Island in Zamboanga City.
He was accused as among those who kidnapped Filipino nurse Mary Cuartocruz in December last year in the village of Manicahan in Zamboanga City. Abdusalam was also implicated in the 2007 kidnapping of Italian missionary Giancarlo Bossi in the town of Payao.
Security forces are also pursing MILF rebels blamed for the killing of 19 soldiers in fierce battle in Basilan province on Tuesday. The soldiers were sent to the town of Al-Barka, a known stronghold of the MILF, for a test mission.
The MILF blamed the clashes to the military and said troops broke the cease-fire agreement by launching an operation against the rebels despite ongoing peace talks, but security officials said troops were sent to the town to arrest a rebel leader Dan Asnawi, who was accused in the series of attacks and kidnappings for ransom in Basilan. (Mindanao Examiner)