“Officials of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front denied that its forces had tried to attack civilians. Eid Kabalu, a spokesman for the front, instead blamed the military for stepping up its offensives in the past several days.”
MANILA: A series of rebel attacks this past week in the southern Philippines that left least nine civilians dead underscores the need for the government and Muslim separatists to resume peace negotiations, analysts said Friday.
While civilian casualties are not uncommon in the troubled region of Mindanao, some analysts view recent actions as the insurgents’ way of pressuring the government to restart the peace process that has been stalled since August, when the government nullified a landmark agreement that would have expanded a Muslim autonomous region.
On Tuesday, members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the main group that has been fighting for Muslim self-rule in the predominantly Roman Catholic region since the 1970s, attacked villages in Sultan Kudarat township, killing nine civilians and wounding more, the military said.
The next day, Christmas Eve, the rebels reportedly staged another attack, this time in the town of Alamada.
“The attacks came while the people were setting off firecrackers. The attackers timed their attacks during the revelry,” said Ernesto Concepcion, mayor of Alamada, according to ABS-CBN television.
The military said the rebels attacked other areas on Christmas Day, firing rocket-propelled grenades at power lines in Sultan Kudarat and looting.
“They ransacked the houses of civilians and extorted money from them. They even stole the guns of retired soldiers living in the area,” Lieutenant Colonel Ernesto Torres Jr., an army spokesman, said Friday.
Officials of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front denied that its forces had tried to attack civilians. Eid Kabalu, a spokesman for the front, instead blamed the military for stepping up its offensives in the past several days.