Philippine military blames ex-separatist rebels for deadly southern ambush

BenarNews staff
Zamboanga, Philippines
Philippine military blames ex-separatist rebels for deadly southern ambush Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) troops stand along a road ahead of last year’s presidential elections, in Camp Darapanan in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao, Philippines, April 23, 2022.
[Ferdinandh Cabrera/AFP]

The Philippine military on Monday accused members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, a former guerrilla group, of killing a soldier and a policeman during an attack in the south that left seven government troops wounded. 

In Sunday’s incident in Ungkaya Pukan, a remote town in the island province of Basilan, officials said that 10 gunmen ambushed a security convoy guarding a Joint Peace and Security Team. The team is tasked with overseeing the decommissioning and disarming of former MILF combatants as agreed in a 2014 peace agreement with Manila. 

The team members were riding in two vehicles after inspecting the area – a former MILF stronghold – when they were attacked, said Maj. Andrew Linao, a regional military spokesman.

“Our troops fought back, resulting in a firefight which lasted for five minutes,” Linao said. 

He said the soldier died on the spot, while the policeman died later while being treated for his injuries. The seven other wounded soldiers were recuperating at a military hospital in Zamboanga City.

“This act is a clear manifestation of the perpetrators’ disrespect to their local government officials, the military, and their fellow Basileños, hence, we will not stop until these heartless individuals are identified and neutralized,” Linao said.

BenarNews contacted local MILF authorities but did not immediately hear back.

Brig. Gen. Alvin Luzon, commander of 101st Brigade and Joint Task Force Basilan (JTFB), said the MILF leadership “appears to have no control over its members,” although he added that they had denied their members were involved in the ambush.

“Right now, the pressure is on the MILF side to show their sincerity,” Luzon told reporters.

The former separatist group’s leadership said they had no control over people not identified as their members, according to Luzon.

“But the MILF leadership promised to look and identify those perpetrators,” Luzon said.

He said pursuit operations were continuing on Monday against the suspects. 

The 12,000-strong MILF was once the country’s largest insurgent force until it dropped its bid for independence and settled for expanded autonomy under the 2014 peace deal. 

The separatists then became caretakers of a Muslim region although they agreed to turn over their weapons, while some of the ex-guerrillas were absorbed into the local police force.

In November, around 100 suspected MILF members attacked a military outpost in the same village as the weekend ambush, according to the military. Officials did not immediately say if the two incidents were related.

Roel Pareño in Zamboanga City, southern Philippines, contributed to this report.


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