The latest news from the bloody Islamic Jihad raging in the Southern Philippines.
Gunmen from a breakaway Muslim rebel group attacked army outposts in the southern Philippines yesterday, sparking clashes that killed at least three people and shattered years of calm in the notoriously violent region.
Dozens of armed fighters from the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement launched simultaneous attacks on army detachments in four towns in Maguindanao province late on Sunday and sporadic clashes were continuing, Governor Esmael Mangudadatu said. The gunmen also attacked two army outposts in nearby North Cotabato province.
Mr Mangudadatu said two attackers were killed in Maguindanao, along with a villager who was hit by stray gunfire. Eight people, including five soldiers and militiamen, were wounded in the violence.
At the height of the attacks, villagers fled from their homes and 11 of Maguindanao’s 36 towns lost power. Military officials suspect the gunmen may have destroyed power lines.
The 200-strong rebel group, led by commander Ameril Umbra Kato, broke off last year from the larger Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which has engaged the government in ongoing peace talks being brokered by Malaysia. Kato’s group has opposed the years-long negotiations.
Kato had vowed to continue fighting for an independent homeland for minority Muslims in the south of the predominantly Roman Catholic nation. He had a stroke in November, plunging his group in to uncertainty.
Abu Misri Mammah, a spokesman for Kato’s group, said the rebels were avenging the death of a fellow militant who was killed when army troops advanced on a guerilla stronghold in Maguindanao last month.
“What we launched were hit-and-run harassments,” he told a local radio station, adding that his group had no plan to carry out further attacks.
Soldiers and police were pursuing the fleeing gunmen yesterday.
The 11,000-strong Moro Islamic Liberation Front ordered its rebels to remain in their encampments as government forces battled the breakaway guerillas.
The presidential adviser on the peace talks, Teresita Deles, said the attacks by Kato’s forces were meant to derail the peace talks, but she said the violence would not affect the negotiations.