Muslim rebel leader wants US troops out of southern Philippines
The leader of the Philippines' largest Muslim secessionist rebel group on Monday called for the withdrawal of hundreds of US troops from the southern region of Mindanao,dpa reported .
Murad Ebrahim, chairman of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), said there was no need for the deployment of the US soldiers because there are no terrorist organizations operating in the region.
"As far as the MILF is concerned, we don't see the necessity for the US troops to be here in Mindanao," he said in a press briefing at the rebel Camp Darapaman outside Cotabato City, 960 kilometres south of Manila.
Hundreds of US soldiers have been stationed in Zamboanga City, 875 kilometres south of Manila, since 2001 to train Philippine troops in counterinsurgency.
"Maybe there are a handful of terrorists but we cannot say it is an organized terrorist organization," he said. "The terrorists here are just a handful of people and I think there is no justification for the stay of US troops in Mindanao."
Philippine and foreign security experts have identified Mindanao as a training ground for operatives of Jemaah Islamiyah, an Indonesia-based terrorist group with alleged links to al-Qaeda.
The MILF has been fighting for an independent Islamic state in the southern Philippines since 1978. It has been engaged in peace talks with the government since 1997. dpa jg gl tl se Author: John Grafilo