MILF involved in clash – AFP chief
Alexis Romero, Jaime Laude (The Philippine Star) - April 16, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Some Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels were involved in last Friday’s clashes between government forces and the Abu Sayyaf in Basilan that left 20 people dead and several others wounded, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Gen. Emmanuel Bautista confirmed yesterday.

Bautista, however, stressed that the involvement of MILF members was meant to help their relatives in the Abu Sayyaf targeted by military operations.

“Individual MILF members acted on their own and not the MILF as a group per se because they have relatives in the Abu Sayyaf,” Bautista said.

“They probably joined in their individual capacity and not as MILF,” he said.

While there was information that some MILF members had joined the Abu Sayyaf gunmen during the encounter, Bautista defended the MILF as an organization that does not support the militants.

He said before the operation was launched against the Abu Sayyaf, the MILF commanders were advised through the ceasefire mechanism to coordinate with and support the military operation.

Bautista said they are leaving it to the MILF to deal with its members who were involved in the clashes with troops in Basilan.

 

‘A mistake again’

On the other hand, MILF vice chairman for political affairs Ghadzali Jaafar said they would investigate the involvement of their men in the firefight.

Jaafar said he had received reports stating their men became involved in the clashes between the Abu Sayyaf and government troops.

“We were surprised that they were hit when they were far from the target of the raid,” Jaafar told Solar News yesterday.

“We think we should know the reason why it happened because probably someone committed a mistake again,” he added.

Jaafar stressed the incident should not have occurred, especially after the government and the MILF had just signed the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro.

“We do not want this agreement to be disturbed by such unwanted incident initiated by the military men of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in Basilan,” he said.

Citing field reports, Jaafar said about four MILF members were killed in the military offensive.

He said the matter has been brought to the International Monitoring Team (IMT) and the ceasefire committees.

“Let’s wait for the result of the probe. It’s now in the hands of IMT. Let’s give them a chance,” Jaafar said in Filipino.

Reports earlier revealed the MILF commanders and their men joined the fighting early morning Friday, reinforcing the group of Abu Sayyaf commanders Nurhasan Jamiri, Bashir Kasaran, Ibrahim Malat and Furuji Indama at their hideout in Sitio Kurilem, Barangay Silangkum, Tipo-Tipo town.

The firefight started when a team of Army Scout Rangers launched the offensive early Friday.

The clashes occurred just several meters away from an MILF camp in the area.

Security forces in Basilan stepped up offensives against the Abu Sayyaf in Basilan last week after receiving information about the extortion activities of the bandits.

The military launched the offensive on intelligence reports that the Abu Sayyaf is holding Sabrina Ikbala Voon, niece of retired police director Sukarno Ikbala, who was kidnapped in Zamboanga City last February.

The military said last Friday’s clashes left 18 Abu Sayyaf terrorists and two soldiers dead.

A total of 14 bandits and 31 soldiers, including three Army officers, were wounded in the clashes.

 

No Lenten break

Bautista said there will be no letup in the operation against the Abu Sayyaf and other armed groups during the Lenten season in Basilan and Sulu province.

Bautista made the announcement as he arrived in Zamboanga City to visit the soldiers wounded in last Friday’s clashes in Basilan.

He said the troops would continue the operations against Abu Sayyaf bandits.

“We will continue to run after the Abu Sayyaf. There is no letup in the military operation in Basilan or in Sulu,” Bautista told newsmen at the military hospital here.

On the other hand, Basilan Bishop Martin Jumoad called for a ceasefire of hostilities in the province and appealed for respect and observance of the Holy Week.

Just as the Christians respect the annual observance of the Ramadan, Jumoad appealed to Muslims to also show respect for the Lenten season.

During the visit, Bautista and Western Mindanao Command chief Lt. Gen. Rustico Guerrero awarded medals and provided some cash assistance to the wounded soldiers.

Bautista was also briefed by Guerrero on the ongoing military operation in the island provinces before he flew to Central Mindanao. – Roel Pareño, Evelyn Macairan

ABU ABU SAYYAF ARMED FORCES OF THE PHILIPPINES BASILAN BAUTISTA JAAFAR MILF MILITARY SAYYAF
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