Philippine News - Tipo-Tipo, Basilan

MILF leader cautions Philippine army

Philippines News, Manila – Ghadzali Jaafar, a leader of the largest Muslim rebel group urged the Philippine military to take precautions on Monday after fighting, in which 20 people were killed, threatened the stability of the peace accord signed with Malacañang less than three weeks ago, on March 27th.

The vice chairman for political affairs of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which signed the accord, called for an investigation into the clashes last week on the island of Basilan.

The head of the armed forces, General Emmanuel Bautista, denied the claim that his men had targeted MILF members and said the troops were hunting rival Abu Sayyaf insurgents, who were not involved in the peace agreement.

The MILF peace treaty, signed in the hope of ending the 45 year old conflict, remains unstable as other insurgent groups, particularly Abu Sayyaf, an organisation on the US anti-terrorist blacklist, continue to inflict armed attacks on the army.

“Both parties must know what happened. This mistake must be remedied, so it will not again happen,” Jaafar told reporters. “My message to the military is: ‘Please do not disturb the honeymoon between the MILF and Malacañang,’” he added.

It is believed that 18 Muslim rebels died in the shoot-out near the town of Tipo-tipo on Basilan, an island known as a Muslim militant stronghold. Jaafar accepted that only four of those killed were MILF members, whilst the remainder were Abu Sayyaf fighters.

“I think it was intentional, but I don’t know if they know that they were attacking the MILF,” Jaafar said. “Why attack the MILF at this point in time?”

Bautista responded that the military consulted MILF leaders in the area before engaging the Abu Sayyaf Group.

“There was no participation of MILF forces in the encounter,” he said, though he acknowledged that “individual members” of the MILF, with possible family links to Abu Sayyaf, had become involved in the fighting.

“The MILF should deal with them,” Bautista concluded.