14 dead as more fighters join Philippine feud

Last Updated: Thursday, August 11, 2011 - 19:21

Datu Piang: The death toll
from a vicious feud between rival Muslim rebel groups in the
southern Philippines rose to 14 on Thursday as more fighters flocked
to the remote area, officials said.

Gunfire rang out in the rural town of Datu Piang as
residents carrying babies trooped to a government evacuation
centre to escape the violence, said local village chairman Ben
Carandang.

"The gunfire has been heavy. It is moving further from
the town centre but for the outer districts, it is getting
worse," Carandang said.

About 500 families, or roughly 2,500 people, have fled to
evacuation centres since the fighting began this week,
according to Carandang.

The fighting pits Commander Adzmie of the country`s main
Muslim rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, against
Commander Abunawas, leader of an armed band that broke away
from the MILF.

The clashes are over longstanding land dispute between
Adzmie and Abunawas, government and MILF officials said.

Similar land disputes between Muslim clans have led to
violence in the often lawless southern Philippines over many
years.

Six MILF fighters and eight of Abunawas`s armed men have
been killed this week, said local military spokesman Colonel
Prudencio Asto.

He said other armed bands who were related to Adzmie and
Abunawas were entering the area to join the fighting,
potentially escalating the violence.

But he said the military was not becoming involved in the
unrest because of a ceasefire in place with the MILF as part
of ongoing government peace talks with the group.

MILF spokesman Von al-Haq said Abunawas and his breakaway
group had less than 1,000 fighters throughout the southern
Philippines. This compares with the 12,000-strong MILF.

The MILF has waged an armed struggle since the 1970s that
has led to the loss of at least 150,000 lives.

PTI



First Published: Thursday, August 11, 2011 - 19:21

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