Maguindanao: 30 policemen killed in clashes with MILF rebels, peace agreement flounders
Manila (AsiaNews / Agencies) - At least 30 policemen have been killed in the clashes with Islamists rebels in Maguindanao, the southern province of the Philippines located in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao. The victims include several militiamen, who died yesterday morning during a police raid on a village controlled by members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). The objective of the police raid were two suspected terrorists hiding in the area. Yesterday's clashed were the most serious since the signing of the peace agreement between militias and the central government last year to end decades of fighting.
speak of at least 11 hours of fighting between police and Muslim militias. The clashes
were sparked by the police raid on Mamasapano, Maguindanao, a guerrillas stronghold,
without having previously submitted the request MILF leaders, as provided for
in the peace agreement.
The police were hunting two members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (Biff)- Zulkifli bin Hir, better known as Marwan, and Basit Usman, explosives expert - a separatist group born after a split with MILF, which has always opposed the peace agreement. They are believed responsible for "the recent bomb attacks" that have occurred in Central Mindanao.
The gun battle
between the two sides lasted several hours and caused the deaths of at least 30
policemen; six more bodies have been found, perhaps belonging to Islamist
militants. The violence ended with the arrival of the teams involved in the
area to verify compliance with the terms of the peace agreement. The military did
not take part in the battle. However, Manila has sent teams of peacekeepers to
the region, to avoid an escalation.
One of the two targets of the raid, Zulkifli bin Hir, is a leading figure of the terrorist movement Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), linked to al Qaeda, and which aims to create an Islamic state in Southeast Asia. It has left a long trail of blood in many countries in the area, in particular Indonesia.
Bangsamoro is a region with a predominantly Muslim population and has been battered by decades of civil war between the central government and the Moro guerrillas (Muslim ethnic group and first inspiring guerrilla for independence) and the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front): the groups have called first for independence and then substantial autonomy from the executive center.
The 2012 peace agreement provided for the establishment of an autonomous region of the Philippines. Signed by MILF and Manila, it aimed to end the violence, but opposing extremist groups - such as the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (Biff) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) - have tried several times to hinder it.