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SAYS MILITARY
MILF capability to mount attacks reduced

By Katherine Evangelista
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 20:13:00 10/15/2008

Filed Under: Mindanao peace process, Armed conflict

MANILA, Philippines?Although the Moro Islamic Liberation Front may launch fresh assaults following a Supreme Court ruling declaring as illegal the expanded homeland deal, the secessionist group can no longer mount large-scale attacks, the military said.

?We have degraded their capability and they are having difficulty reconstituting,? Army Chief Lieutenant General Victor Ibrado said Wednesday.

MILF chief negotiator Mohaqer Iqbal on Tuesday said the high court decision could trigger more fighting in Mindanao.

Iqbal said that the MILF leadership has lost its ?moral authority? to restrain its commanders from launching attacks.

The homeland accord was to have paved the way for a final political settlement with the MILF, which has been waging a bloody rebellion since 1978.

After the Supreme Court issued an injunction in August against the deal, three MILF commanders -- Ameril Ombra Kato, Ahleem Sulaiman Pangalian, and Abdullah Macapaar -- launched a series of raids across dozens of towns and villages in Central Mindanao.

Military offensives against the three have been ongoing for two months.

In a separate interview, Colonel Benito de Leon, Commander of the 104th Infantry Brigade based in Lanao del Norte, echoed Ibrado?s statement, saying that aside from low manpower the Moro rebels also ?have very limited firepower.?

?They are also very low in ammunition and armaments that?s why they refuse to engage with [military] troops,? De Leon said.

Ibrado also said civilian support to the rebels? cause has waned.

?There is no possibility for civilians to join the MILF?s re-launch of massive attacks. Civilians are no longer sympathetic to the rebel group,? he said.

?I think the attacks they (rebels) had done in Kulambugan is enough reason for that. They (civilians) know that the MILF in Lanao del Norte does not have the moral ascendancy to deserve their support,? De Leon said.

Ibrado reiterated that the military was closing in on the rebels.

?They?re running out of space to move and maneuver,? Ibrado said.

Renewed clashes in Mindanao have left over 60 civilians dead and displaced more than half a million people, aid agencies have said, describing the situation as an unfolding humanitarian crisis.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo sent extra troops to Mindanao and said peace talks will only resume if the rebels disarm and guerrilla leaders responsible for the attacks surrender.



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