Philippine bishop calls for Holy Week ceasefire
General says hunt for Abu Sayyaf will go on
Soldiers set up checkpoints around Basilan as fighting continues between government troops and Abu Sayyaf (photo by Joe Torres)
The bishop in conflict-hit Basilan province called for a ceasefire today as clashes between government troops and Abu Sayyaf rebels entered its fourth day.
"I call on our brother Muslims to please respect our observance of the Holy Week," Bishop Martin S. Jumoad of Isabela said in a radio broadcast.
Bishop Jumoad made the call following the death of at least 20 people, mostly Abu Sayyaf fighters, and the wounding of at least 45 others in clashes that began on Friday in the town of Tipo-Tipo.
"Just as we respect the Ramadan, I hope also [the Muslims] will respect the Holy Week," the prelate said.
He said fighting will not stop Catholics on Basilan "to profess our faith because we trust that God will provide our security".
"I continue to challenge our Catholic faithful, particularly in areas where there is danger, I challenge them to still profess our faith," Bishop Jumoad said.
Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista said there will be no let up in operations against the Abu Sayyaf, even during the observance of Holy Week. "We will continue to run after the [Abu Sayyaf]. There is no letup in Basilan or in Sulu," Bautista told reporters in Zamboanga City after visiting wounded soldiers in a military hospital today.
The fighting in the town of Tipo-Tipo has already resulted in the evacuation of some 1,500 people.
Laisa Alamia, executive secretary of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, said the villages of Silangkong and Baguindan in Tipo-Tipo have turned into "ghost towns."
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