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Philippine rebels cry foul over deadly attack on Abu Sayyaf

MILF says military and police assault violated ceasefire reporter, Manila

April 16, 2013

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A joint army and police action against suspected Abu Sayyaf members in Basilan province yesterday has elicited a strong rebuke by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF.)

Ustaz Hamzah Sapanton, the MILF chief in the province, said the operation was a deliberate attempt to “undermine the ceasefire and the peace talks.”

Sapanton said the attack “only compounds the increasing doubts of the public orver the sincerity of the government in the peace process.”

The military, however, said the joint police and army ground assault was aimed at Abu Sayyaf Group terrorists under Isnilon Hapilon and Furuji Indama.

The Abu Sayyaf are notorious for several high profile kidnappings, murders which are usually undertaken by beheading their victims, extortion activities and bombings. 

Last month, Abu Sayyaf released Australian kidnap victim Warren Richard Rodwell after more than a year in captivity. 

"We would like to emphasize that the operation was conducted and directed only against the [Abu Sayyaf] terrorists with utmost consideration to the safety of MILF communities in the operational area," military spokesman Col Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos said in a press briefing today.

Burgos said at least eight Abu Sayyaf terrorists were killed and three soldiers were injured in the operation yesterday.

The MILF, however, complained that the government troops did not coordinate their movements with the rebel group. 

Abbas Salung, a member of the MILF Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities, said the MILF will file a complaint against the military.

"The encounter has ceased but actions must be undertaken by the government to avoid recurrence of the firefight between the government and MILF forces and to prove that the government forces are indeed upholding the policy for the primacy of the peace process," Salung said.

The government and the MILF have a standing ceasefire agreement while both sides are negotiating a final peace accord.

Last October, government and MILF negotiators signed a framework agreement that paves the way for the establishment of a new political entity in Mindanao.

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