Six dead, hundreds flee Philippine feud

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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