One dead in fresh fighting between Muslim rebels, Philippine troops
Fresh fighting broke out Tuesday between Muslim separatist rebels and government troops in the southern Philippines, resulting in the death of one civilian and forcing hundreds to flee their homes, the military said.
The clashes erupted when troops responded to complaints that about 150 Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) guerrillas raided a village in Aleosan town in North Cotabato province, 960 kilometres south of Manila, reported dpa.
"The rebels harassed the villagers, took corn and rice, and looted the houses of both Muslims and Christians," said Lieutenant Colonel Julieto Ando, spokesman for the army's 6th Infantry Division.
Ando said an unidentified man was shot dead by the rebels after he refused to give them his farm animals during the attack.
Last week, two people were killed and two wounded in separate clashes between MILF rebels and government troops in the nearby provinces of Maguindanao and Sarangani.
The hostilities are erupting as peace talks between the MILF and the Philippine government have remained stalled due to disagreements over how to set up a proposed Muslim homeland in the southern region of Mindanao.
Eid Kabalu, MILF civil military affairs chief, admitted that MILF rebels were involved in the Aleosan incident, but stressed that the group's leadership did not approve of the offensive.
"These fighters are getting impatient with the slow pace of the peace process," he said. "But their offensive was not justified."
Kabalu said members of an international team monitoring a five- year-old ceasefire between the MILF and the Philippine government was on their way to halt the fighting.
The 12,000-strong MILF has been fighting for the establishment of an independent Islamic state in Mindanao since 1978.
Peace talks between the MILF and the Philippine government have been suspended since December 2007.
While the two panels met in February 2008 in an attempt to revive the talks, they failed to move the negotiations forward.