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MILF seeks to end deadly land feud in Maguindanao

/ 05:34 AM August 15, 2011

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on Sunday said it had ordered one of its commanders to halt attacks against a rival Moro rebel leader in a bid to end a land feud that had killed at least 14 combatants and displaced more than 3,000 people in Central Mindanao.

Von Al Haq, a spokesperson for the 11,000-strong MILF, said one of the group’s commanders, Adzme Kasim, had been ordered to halt attacks and take a defensive posture to ease a week of sporadic clashes at Datu Piang town in Maguindanao.

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Government troops have not intervened but are standing by.

The regional military spokesperson, Col. Prudencio Asto, said 14 combatants had been killed in the sporadic clashes, including six fighters on Kasim’s side.

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More than 3,000 villagers have fled from the scene of the fighting, and many have sought shelter in nine school buildings being guarded by troops.

Such violent clan conflicts, known locally as “rido,” have long been a nagging security concern in Mindanao, which is already mired in Moro rebellions through the decades.

The government’s chief negotiator, Marvic Leonen, has expressed concern over frequent infighting within the country’s biggest Moro rebel group, saying that he hoped MILF leaders could show that they can control their men.

A ceasefire monitored by Malaysian-led foreign troops has held between government forces and the MILF rebels, with no clashes reported this year.

At least three major clan wars, however, have erupted this year among MILF fighters, displacing thousands of villagers, Leonen said.

Al Haq said the two rebel commanders in Datu Piang were contesting ownership of a 6-hectare farmland wedged between a vast marshland and a major river.

Brig. Gen. Restituto Aguilar said the feud between Kasim, who heads an MILF combat unit, and a rival Moro rebel commander, Abunawas Ebad, from the breakaway Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters had worsened into an organizational conflict.

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Aguilar expressed hope the fighting would not spill into other areas.

The breakaway Bangsamoro rebel group is led by Ameril Umbra Kato, a radical commander opposed to peace talks with the government.

On Saturday, two powerful bombs were found and safely defused by troops and police on Saturday near an electric power pole in Guindolongan town, near Datu Piang, and at a bus passenger terminal in Tacurong City in nearby Sultan Kudarat province.

But the regional police director, Felicisimo Khu, said intelligence reports indicated the bombs were part of attempts by Moro rebels to extort money from business establishments and appeared unrelated to the land feud. AP

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TAGS: Central Mindanao, Datu Piang town, land feud, Maguindanao, Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Moro rebel leader
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