Fighting erupts anew between military, MILF in Maguindanao

Bantay Ceasefire volunteers said elements of the Bravo Company, 64th Infantry Battalion fired mortars and machineguns at MILF positions in barangay Kuloy, Shariff Aguak at around 8pm.

MILF spokesperson Eid Kabalu claimed the MILF did not fire back at the soldiers and armed members of the Civilian Volunteer Organization.

Government troops and CVO members had clashed with the MILF in the same area on Oct. 29 and Nov. 2. No casualties were reported on either side.

Both the government and MILF downplayed the tension saying the firefights in Shariff Aguak were “isolated incidents” and have no danger of spilling over to other areas in Mindanao.

“This is nothing. This incident is still manageable,” Kabalu said, although he declared he would file a complaint before the Joint Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities and the International Monitoring Team.

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza assured the ceasefire between the government and the MILF is holding despite the impasse in the peace negotiations.

Brig. Gen. Edgardo Gurrea, chair of the government CCCH, said they received the report on the latest fighting in Shariff Aguak at around 9pm Saturday.

“We are checking if soldiers or CVOs were involved,” Gurrea said. He said the firefight lasted less than an hour and that there were no reports of casualties among the soldiers and the MILF.

Kabalu said barangay Kuloy is becoming “the new flashpoint” in the already strained relationship between the government and the MILF.

He blamed the Army for putting up a new base in barangay Kuloy which is “too close” to an MILF base located only 300 meters away.

“The CVOs are using this base as staging point to harass the MILF forces. They are even cutting down surrounding coconut trees,” Kabalu told Mindanews.

He said the setting up of an Army detachment in barangay Kuloy was “ a clear violation” of the agreement they made with the government when they set up a five-kilometer buffer zone to separate the MILF and the CVOs last July.

He said the agreement only recognized the setting up of an Army detachment in barangay Delambong, not barangay Kuloy.

“This new Army detachment allows them to cross the five-kilometer buffer zone set up to separate the CVOs and the MILF,” he said.

Lt. Col. Joselito Ando, 6th Infantry Division spokesperson, had denied Kabalu’s accusation saying it was the MILF members who were harassing the soldiers in Shariff Aguak.

Since July, the MILF has been fighting the CVOs armed by Gov. Rizaldy Ampatuan of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao.

URL: http://www.mindanews.com/c3-news/2006/11/06/fighting-erupts-anew-between-military-milf-in-maguindanao/


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