News Flow ON Mindanao Philippine Government Offensive Against MILF

from ABS-CBN news here
Monday, August 25, 2008 9:47 AM

MILF commander: Forces won’t yield until MOA talks resume

A sub-commander of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) insisted on Sunday that rebel forces will not stand down until the government resumes negotiations for the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) that seeks to expand the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

At the same time, the MILF sub-chief identified as “Commander Anderson” told ABS-CBN News in Lanao del Sur that the rebel group will not give up sub-commanders Bravo and Umbra Kato.

Anderson, of the MILF’s 116th Base Command, said they will keep on fighting unless the military stands down.

“Ano kami, mga uto-uto? Na paalis mga ngipin namin? Ano nang mangyayari sa amin kung wala kaming ngipin?,” he said.

Anderson, an Islamic studies scholar at the Mindanao State University and a foreign student in Pakistan, once led the MILF in the military’s all-out war against the secessionists in year 2000.

Now, he said that the situation remains the same. He said there is no chance that the MILF will hand over Bravo and Kato, who allegedly led attacks against civilians in Lanao del Norte, Lanao del Sur and Sarangani provinces last week.

Stand down or else

In Manila, Press Secretary Jesus Dureza said that if MILF chairman Al Haj Murad is not willing to hand over Kato, Bravo and another sub-chief named Commander Pangalianare, rebel forces must stand down because government troops will enforce the law.

“If Chairman Murad is not willing or capable of bringing in his three MILF commanders to answer for their terroristic acts, then he and his men must stand down as government forces enforce the law. Short of that, there will be no let up in government offensive.

He said that short of the surrender, the police and the military will not stop their pursuit operations against the rebels.

“The military and the police cannot suspend their law enforcement operations unless the three base commanders of the MILF  are neutralized and punished in accordance with our laws for their acts of terrorism against innocent  and helpless civilians,” Dureza added.

The press chief added that historically, the three MILF commanders have been recalcitrant despite their group’s negotiations with the government.

“[They] may continue their violent acts even if agreements are signed with the MILF leadership,” he said.

Dureza also said that if Murad wishes to return to the negotiating table, he must show he does not support criminal acts committed by his sub-commanders. He said Murad should hand over the accused to government authorities.

“The inaction of the MILF leadership will be construed as its tacit approval of the criminal acts of its three commander and  will be a clear proof of  MILF leadership’s insincerity to pursue the conclusion of the peace talks,” Dureza said.

Dureza said the government panel certainly wants peace negotiations “but not at the expense of the law”.

“We have gone a long way for peace but not at the expense of our innocent civilians who seek vindication for the violence inflicted on them by those lawless MILF groups. Our peace loving citizens expect no less. There is no all out war in Mindanao. This is waging all-out peace in Mindanao,” he said.

from GMA news here:

Malacañang rejects MILF’s plea to halt massive assault
08/24/2008 | 09:23 PM
MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang on Sunday rejected a call by Muslim guerrillas for a halt in a massive air and ground assault, and instead intensified the four-day attack, capturing a rebel training camp in Maguindanao, officials said.

Moro Islamic Liberation Front Chairman Al Haj Murad urged the government in a rare news conference Saturday to stop the offensive, warning it could imperil a yearslong peace process and escalate violence in the country’s troubled south.

About 6,000 troops and police commando forces, backed by artillery and bomber aircraft, have attacked guerrilla positions to capture a rebel commander who occupied and looted farming communities in North Cotabato province. Two other commanders are also being hunted who led a rampage last week in which 37 people were shot or hacked to death in Lanao del Norte province.

“There will be no let up in government offensives,” Press Secretary Jesus Dureza said.

He said government forces would “enforce the law” if Murad does not turn over the three commanders for justice. Murad has refused to do so.

After four days of air and artillery strikes and attacks by Army rangers, rebel resistance has softened, allowing troops to capture a guerrilla training camp in Maguindanao’s Mamasapano township, said Army Col. Marlou Salazar, who was overseeing the offensive.

Troops were checking the camp, which has obstacle courses, assembly areas and small buildings for combat training, for possible booby traps and land mines, he said.

“They’re scampering and leaving only token forces to delay our advance,” Salazar told The Associated Press by telephone.

At least 27 guerrillas have been killed and 21 others wounded in three Maguindanao townships where Salazar’s army brigade was pressing its assault against the forces of rebel commander Ameril Umbra Kato. Military and police were continuing a manhunt in nearby Lanao del Norte province for commanders Abdullah Macapaar, also known as Bravo, and Aleem Sulaiman Pangalian.

The National Disaster Coordinating Council reported that at least 40 civilians have been killed and 240,000 displaced by the rebel attacks and the fighting.

“The number keeps growing,” Social Welfare Secretary Esperanza Cabral told the AP. “There is fighting that erupts in new places almost every day so more and more are being displaced. So we are hoping that there can be a peaceful resolution very quickly.”

Cabral said the World Food Program has increased its emergency rice supplies for refugees from 400 tons last week to 900 tons.

Murad said government troops were attacking the main rebel forces and not only pursuing the three commanders.

what plea was that when the milf (note sub) commander was calling no cessation until MOA talks resume.

this from  Inquirer news here:

(UPDATE) MILF chief calls for halt to fighting

By Jeoffrey Maitem, Edwin Fernandez
Mindanao Bureau
First Posted 14:58:00 08/23/2008

CAMP DARAPANAN, Shariff Kabunsuan — The leader of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front called for a cessation of military operations against some of its fighters so that government and the rebel group’s peace panels could return to the negotiating table.

But Ebrahim Murad, chief of the country’s largest Moro rebel group, insisted that there was no need to renegotiate the controversial Memorandum of Agreement on the Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD).

He said for both panels to resume the negotiations, the military should put an end to its operations against MILF commanders in Maguindanao and Lanao Del Norte.

“We are calling for a cessation of hostilities. We can go back again to the negotiating table with Malaysia as mediator. But the MOA-AD issue is non-negotiable. It’s a done deal,” Murad said.

Murad said the MILF was willing to return to the negotiating table to discuss the MOA-AD, the issue of the International Monitoring Team with its Malaysian members’ tour of duty ending this month and the issue of two MILF commanders who led the attacks in North Cotabato and Lanao Del Norte.

Murad also warned of a possible collapse of the peace talks if the government would not reconsider its position of “reviewing” the MOA-AD.

latest news from inquirer here:

2 Kato camps fall, says military
But AFP can’t find MILF leader
By Nikko Dizon, Jeffrey Maitem, Nash Maulana
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 02:10:00 08/25/2008

MANILA, Philippines—Government forces pursuing Ameril Ombra Kato Sunday said they had overrun two of his encampments but had found no trace of the wily Moro commander blamed for the recent surge of violence in Central Mindanao, the military reported.

But the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) denied military claims that two “satellite camps” of Kato had fallen. MILF civil-military chief Eid Kabalu said the military must have been referring to “positions.”

Col. Marlou Salazar, the 601st Army Brigade commander based in Shariff Aguak town in Maguindanao province, said his forces on Sunday drove Kato’s men from what he called an MILF training camp in the remote village of Pusaw in Mamasapano.

Salazar said the Pusaw camp fell Sunday after an overnight artillery barrage and a bombing run by an OV10 aircraft.

On Friday, the military also claimed to have captured Kato’s satellite facility—called Camp Vietnam—in nearby Datu Piang after pounding it with artillery fire and air strikes. Salazar did not give details on what that facility was or how many rebels were dislodged there.

In all, Salazar said, MILF fighters had been driven away from five villages.

Agence France Presse, in a report attributed to military spokesperson Col. Julieto Ando, said more than 100 MILF fighters had been killed in four days of fighting.

The Philippine Daily Inquirer could not independently confirm Ando’s claim. Kabalu said only that the MILF had suffered seven dead and eight wounded.

Lt. Col. Ernesto Torres, spokesperson of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, said that as of Sunday, 13 soldiers and four militiamen had been killed and 62 soldiers wounded mostly in ambushes in Lanao del Norte and Maguindanao.

The National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) in Camp Aguinaldo said 49 civilians had been killed and 65 wounded in the upsurge of violence in Mindanao since the scuttled signing of a memorandum of agreement with the MILF in Malaysia on Aug. 5 triggered impatient MILF commanders to go on a rampage.

240,000 affected

The NDCC said fighting had also “affected” 240,000 people who were either robbery victims, or had their houses strafed or burned, or had lost their livelihood. Of the affected people, 75,000 remained in 104 evacuation centers.

Salazar told the Inquirer in a phone interview that the 2nd Scout Ranger Battalion overran the Pusaw camp located near the boundary of Mamasapano and Datu Piang towns at 3 p.m. Sunday, and that there was only “token resistance.”

Kabalu also said that aside from fighting in Maguindanao, MILF rebels were also engaged in clashes with the military in Barangay Pananag, Maasim, Sarangani; Midsayap, North Cotabato; and Guindulungan, Maguindanao.

He said that four to five days ago, the military attacked the MILF’s peacekeeping task force in Datu Saudi Ampatuan in Maguindanao while trying to restore law and order in the barangays (villages) where there had been a “rido” or clan war.

“We are on active defense. We can also attack as long as it’s necessary,” he added.

probably a play for foreign military aid

from philstar here:

MILF raiders linked to JI
By Paolo Romero
Monday, August 25, 2008

Rogue commanders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) have strong ties with extremists, including the al-Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), and would continue to sow terror even when a final peace agreement is forged with the separatist group, security and intelligence officials said yesterday.
Malacañang, on the other hand, has accused the MILF leadership of authorizing the atrocities, putting into question their sincerity in pursuing peace talks with the government.

National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales said Ameril Umbra Kato and Abdurahman Macapaar alias Commander Bravo, heads of the MILF’s 105th and 102nd base command, respectively, are not likely to heed orders from the leadership of the Muslim rebel group to yield or stop their atrocities owing to their extremist leanings.

Gonzales’ disclosure came amid calls for the government to officially declare the MILF or at least the two commanders as terrorists. He said a relative of Kato, Umberil Kato, also has ties with the JI.

“We have been receiving reports for quite some time that Kato is more of a JI than an MILF leader,” Gonzales told The STAR. “And we have not disregarded these reports.”