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    » 05/27/2013, 00.00

    PHILIPPINES

    Mindanao, at least 20 killed in clashes between the army and Islamic rebels



    The worst affected province is Sulu, on the border with Malaysia. The clashes are the most serious since the signing of the Framework Agreement between the Philippine government and rebels of the Moro Islamic Liberation in November 2012. Extremist groups belonging to al-Qaeda linked Abu Sayyaf foment violence. Fear of attacks against civilian targets in the capital of Jolo.

    Sulu (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Clashes continue between the Philippine army and Islamic rebels of Abu Sayyaf in Mindanao (southern Philippines). In two days, 20 soldiers and seven militants were killed during operations to oust the militants from the province of Sulu, the most western part of the archipelago. Meanwhile, the army has launched a vast operation to free Jenifer Casilda Villarasa, wife of Sergeant Faustino Villarasa, kidnapped May 8 last by a group of Islamic extremists. The death toll is one of the most serious since the signing of the Framework Agreement between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) for peace in Mindanao.

    Philippine Army spokesman, Gen. Dimingo Tutaan, said the military offensive was to secure the villages of the province and to ensure that civilians do not end up in the crossfire between regular troops and rebels.

    Police in Sulu have deployed all of their forces to prevent attacks against vulnerable civilian targets. The province is part of the new Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao, the result of the framework agreements signed between MILF and the government in November. Despite the joint efforts between former rebels and government forces, the area is still prey to extremist groups who receive arms and training in Indonesia and Malaysia. Among them are Abu Sayyaf, a terrorist group close to al-Qaeda was born in the 1990s and the Bansamoro Islamic Freedom Fighetrs (Biff), established in 2011 by former members of the MILF who still pursue the full independence of the region.

    In recent years the city of Jolo, the capital of the province of Sulu in the southern Philippines, has been the scene of attacks and violence. The area is home to a large Christian minority, about 40% of the population, who live alongside the majority Muslims.  The Christian community is often the target of attacks by extremists. On 7 July 2009 the cathedral of Mount Carmel was attacked: a grenade was thrown at the building causing the death of six people with about forty others wounded.

     

     

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    See also

    30/07/2008 PHILIPPINES
    Mindanao: four Christians killed, a fifth missing
    Yesterday an armed group ambushed a bus in Lanao del Sur, stronghold of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. The group robbed passengers and then shot the men. The Philippine Church urges an accord between the government and MILF to avoid an escalation in violent attacks.

    18/08/2009 PHILIPPINES
    Dialogue between ethnic and religious groups only path for peace in Mindanao, Filipino priest says
    For Fr Leo S Pepito, building up “interpersonal relations” must go hand in hand with political efforts and socio-economic development. The promotion of a “dialogue for life” is part of the Catholic Church’s mission.

    16/01/2009 PHILIPPINES
    MILF condemns humanitarian workers abduction as no one claims responsibility
    The Moro Islamic Liberation Front offers to help in getting the release of the kidnap victims. Abu Sayyaf has not claimed responsibility for the action and local sources exclude politics or religion were involved. Police is investigating the possible involvement of an employee working at a prison the three workers had just visited.

    15/12/2008 PHILIPPINES
    Gun culture reaching young Catholics in Basilan
    Bishop Jumoad denounces the trend, expresses apprehension about the situation. Young men are in fact taking up arms to defend themselves as a result of the growing violence between the army and MILF rebels. Villagers are fleeing their homes fearful of new attacks.

    21/08/2009 PHILIPPINES
    Humanitarian emergency in Mindanao refugee camps
    The Philippine army offensive against Abu Sayyaf puts into question the resumption of talks with MILF. Government and the World Food Program aid to refugee camps inadequate aggravating conditions for over 12 thousand refugees. Five deaths from disease in recent weeks. Harsh criticism of the bishops who want a definitive ceasefire between Philippine army and MILF.



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