Six dead, hundreds flee Philippine feud
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Last Updated: Wednesday, August 10, 2011, 16:14
Cotabato: Six people were killed and hundreds of civilians fled their homes as fighting raged between two Muslim rebel commanders in the southern Philippines, officials said Wednesday.

Military officers said they were protecting civilians in the troubled island of Mindanao, but had avoided getting involved in the fighting, leaving it to the rebel leadership and government negotiators to settle the conflict.

"There is sporadic fighting still going on there. We hear gunfire. It is still quite dangerous," local military spokesman Colonel Prudencio Asto said.

Fighting was still raging days after Commander Adzmie of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) began exchanging gunfire and mortar shells with Commander Abunawas of a breakaway Muslim rebel group.

The groups are fighting over a "longstanding land dispute", said MILF vice chairman Ghadzali Jaafar without offering further details.

Brigadier General Ariel Bernardo, head of a military panel engaged in talks with the MILF, said at least 210 families have fled the fighting and taken refuge in government evacuation centres.

He warned that many of the civilians were very weak as they had been fasting for the Muslim month of Ramadan when they fled.

Four MILF militants and two belonging to the Abunawas faction were killed in the fighting, he said.

The 12,000-strong MILF, the country's main Muslim rebel group, continues to engage in violence despite agreeing a ceasefire with the government last year.

The peace process received a major boost when Philippine President Benigno Aquino met with MILF chairman Murad Ebrahim last week.

The group's three-decade long rebellion, which has claimed 150,000 lives, was aimed initially at setting up an independent Muslim state in Catholic-dominated Mindanao, but is now focused on winning autonomy.

The 14 years of on-off negotiations with the government have been frequently marred by violence and distrust of the Muslim group.


First Published: Wednesday, August 10, 2011, 16:14

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