Philippines 'disturbed' by dead Islamic child soldiers
Rebel remains found following nearly a week of fighting in the south
A reproduction of an undated handout photo released by the Philippine army and recovered from an overran camp of Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, which shows boys believed to be young rebels holding weapons (AFP photo/Philippine Army - 6th Infantry Division)
The office of Philippines President Benigno Aquino said it was “disturbed” by the discovery of the remains of at least three Muslim rebel child soldiers following clashes last week with the military as the government signed a peace deal with a rival faction.
The bodies were among at least 52 dead Bangsomoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) rebels found following six days of fighting that ended on Saturday in Maguindanao province.
"We condemn the practice of using child soldiers.... This violates not just our laws but international laws as well. Minors have no place in the battlefield," said Abigail Valte, spokesperson of President Benigno Aquino.
"We appeal to parents not to allow their children to be exploited this way," added Valte in a statement.
Bishop Martin Jumoad of Basilan warned that the use of child soldiers threatened to prolong the decades-long conflict by conditioning young people to fight.
"It is unbelievable. Our Muslim brothers must stop it," he said.
The military said they were bracing for retaliatory attacks, however.
The government on Sunday ended "Operation Darkhorse" against the BIFF after capturing four rebel camps and a bomb factory in Maguindanao.
"They would do it at a time least expected, and that is the reason why vigilance is needed," said military spokesman Maj-Gen. Domingo Tutaan. "Its members are still armed and they can still launch attacks on an unprotected community."
The fighting follows last week’s landmark peace deal with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front with which the BIFF, a splinter group, was allied until 2008.
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