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MNLF, MILF clashes in Cotabato City stop as Police, Army referee

newsinfo / Regions
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MNLF, MILF clashes in Cotabato City stop as Police, Army referee

/ 01:35 PM May 20, 2013

COTABATO CITY, Philippines — Police and Army personnel are now standing in between warring Moro rebel groups in a remote village here while top level efforts to address misunderstanding are underway.

Captain Tony Bulao, spokesman of the 602nd Infantry Brigade, said on Monday both sides agreed to respect the low-level agreement that brought normalcy back to the village of Marbel.

“Skirmishes have stopped as both forces agreed to refrain from attacking or issuing provocative statements to each other,” Bulao said.

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Bulao, however, said the Army monitored the movement of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) forces around the villages of Kilada, Marbel and Elian, all in Matalam, North Cotabato and known bailiwick of Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

The conflict started on May 5 when the MILF, along with representatives from the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, was to hold an advocacy forum on the Bangsamoro Framework Agreement in Barangay (village) Marbel.

Since the area is a known MNLF peace zone after it signed a peace deal with Manila in 1996, Datu Dima Ambil, an MNLF commander, requested that the MILF would not bring firearms or wear military uniform.

“But the MILF brought firearms and wear fatigue uniforms, an act that insulted Ambil,” Bulao said, adding that it triggered armed skirmishes.

On May 16, more MILF forces arrived in the area and firefight ensued, Bulao said.

MILF 108th base command leader Kagi Mansur accused the MNLF of attacking their forces.

An MILF member was killed on May 5 while two MILF fighters were hurt in the May 16 clash. Civilians, who are families of MNLF fighters fled to safer grounds.

Ambil accused the MILF of violating the local truce while Mansur, accused the Army of siding with the MNLF.

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Bulao said the government forces did not take sides and maintained its neutrality for the sake of civilians and the future of the peace process.

“Why the MILF had to carry firearms and shoulder-fired rocket propelled grenades if they were only to hold peace advocacy program in an MNLF territory? Only the MILF can answer that,” Bulao said.

Police and Army Special Forces backed by four armored personnel carriers have secured about 300 families in Barangay Marbel.

The MILF is calling the military to remain a buffer force and take action only when either side starts fighting again.

Bulao said the Army insisted in putting up buffer forces in between the feuding parties to prevent untoward incidents that could harm the peace process.

Officials of the joint coordinating committee on the cessation of hostilities have started laying down rules to prevent similar clashes.

Both the MNLF and MILF forces stressed that the conflict was not organizational and more of a “misunderstanding” among local forces.

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TAGS: Armed conflict, Insurgency, MILF, MNLF, Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Moro National Liberation Front, Moro rebellion, News, Regions
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