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
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
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
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.