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Armed forces 'neutralize' rebels

Splinter group hoped violence would derail peace talks

Armed forces 'neutralize' rebels
Residents flee fighting in Maguindanao province (Photo by Ferdinandh Cabrera) reporters, Cagayan de Oro City

August 9, 2012

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Deadly attacks in Mindanao this week were an attempt by a rebel splinter group to derail a new round of peace talks between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the government, authorities said today. The attacks sparked clashes between government forces and a Moro faction called the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), led by Ustadz Ameril Umra Kato, a hardline separatist who broke from the MILF last year. At least eight people were killed and around 26,000 displaced, according to Mujiv Hataman, governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). He said the group, which had attacked 11 municipalities in Maguindanao and North Cotabato since Sunday, has been neutralized. Presidential advisor to the peace process Teresita Quintos-Deles said the BIFF attacks were "meant to derail the peace process between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)." Government and MILF negotiators began another round of formal peace negotiations in Kuala Lumpur yesterday. Deles said the violence will not affect the "substantial gains that we have carefully and persistently built" with the MILF. Marvic Leonen, chairman of the government negotiation team said the group was among "the few that are willing to go to any length to deny our communities and our peoples the benefit of a just and lasting peaceful settlement to our armed conflicts." Related reports Rights groups to probe armed clash Maguindanao clashes displace villagers

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