MILF leaders worried over rash of bombings

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COTABATO CITY—Bombings that have shaken parts of Central Mindanao and discoveries of improvised explosive devices since last month have caught serious attention from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) as it hurdles the final stretch of peace negotiations with the government.

“We will have it investigated because up to now no group has claimed responsibility to these bombings,” MILF chair Murad Ebrahim said. These, he said, “are not good developments, happening at a time when we are negotiating for a durable peace settlement.”

Murad welcomed on Saturday a large crowd of mostly public school teachers and students led by Maguindanao Schools Superintendent Meriam Kawit at an MILF main stronghold in Sultan Kudarat town in Maguindanao.

Police and military officials have reported bomb explosions and the retrieval of improvised explosive devices in Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat and North Cotabato since Dec. 19. On Saturday, three blasts from an M-79 grenade launcher rocked Shariff Aguak town in Maguindanao.

“There were no casualties and damage to property, as the bombs hit vacant lots,” said Col. Edgar Gonzales, commander of the Army’s First Mechanized Infantry Brigade based in Shariff Aguak.

Investigators have blamed an extortion group for the grenade attack and the recovery of two homemade bombs near the municipal hall. Gonzales, however, refused to name any suspects pending the filing of charges against them.

The rash of violence is causing public apprehension and speculation, wondering who or which group is behind it, Murad said. “This is not good and we want this investigated.”

“The people of Mindanao have been yearning for peace and there seems to be some, with vested interest, out to spoil the common objective,” he added.

On Dec. 19, a commuter van was ambushed here by heavily armed men, resulting in the deaths of three people and the wounding of several others. Most of the passengers were family members and relatives of Amil Sula, barangay chair of Rosary Heights 5, who lawmen said could be the target.

Hours later, a bomb exploded and an 81-mm mortar was found near a police precinct along Sinsuat Avenue. A village councilman was slightly wounded.

A bomb also blew up in Tacurong City, also in Sultan Kudarat, on Dec. 29, damaging two buses.

On Sunday, two improvised explosives fashioned from 60-mm mortar bombs were recovered near the police station of Kidapawan City. Charlie C. Señase, Inquirer Mindanao

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