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MILF denies alleged involvement in Lanao Sur hostilities

 • 20:36 PM Wed Feb 24, 2016
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By: 
John Unson
Abdullah Macapaar of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (inset) denied assertions their forces were involved in recent hostilities in two Lanao del Sur towns. (John Unson)

LANAO DEL SUR --- The top Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) leader in this province urged the joint ceasefire committee to investigate on two attacks on soldiers the past five days by extremists inspired by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.Abdullah Macapaar, known as Commander Bravo,” on Wednesday told reporters he was saddened by allegations they connived with local extremist factions that attacked soldiers in Lanao del Sur’s Balindong and Butig towns.Macapaar said they were not involved in the deadly forays by local ISIS-inspired groups in Bayabao District in Butig and in Bubong-Kadapaan in Balindong, which resulted to the deaths of at least three Army combatants.The hostilities in Butig erupted last weekend when gunmen attacked a detachment there of the Army’s 51stInfantry Battalion, killing two soldiers and wounding several others.Sporadic clashes ensued until Monday and waned only after combatants from different units of the Army’s 103rdBrigade in Marawi City, the capital of Lanao del Sur, arrived and helped drive the extremists away with 105 Howitzer canons and aerial sorties by fixed-wing aircrafts.Local officials said there is indeed a need now for the government and the MILF’s joint ceasefire committee and the Malaysian-led International Monitoring Team (IMT) to investigate on the Butig and Balindong incidents.Hundreds of villagers in two barangays in Balindong were forced to evacuate to neutral areas on Tuesday when extremists attacked soldiers escorting tanks en route to Marawi City to augment the armor assets of the military units involved in clearing operations in Butig.A soldier was killed in the ambush, which caused panic in the surroundings and forced local authorities to close to traffic the Narciso Ramos Highway, connecting Balindong town to Marawi City, for five hours to prevent motorists and commuters from getting caught in the crossfire.Gov. Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) on Tuesday night tasked his deputy, Regional Vice Governor Haroun Al-Rashid Lucman, to conduct a deeper inquiry on the Butig and Balindong incidents and determine the extent of displacement of local folks dislocated by the encounters.Hataman also tasked the regional government’s Humanitarian Emergency Assistance and Response Team (HEART) to extend relief and rehabilitation services to evacuees.The HEART is an inter-agency disaster and emergency mitigation contingent operating under Hataman’s ministerial control.Macapaar told reporters, in a clandestine meeting Tuesday, their forces remained in their camps as the hostilities in Butig went on.None of their men were also involved in Tuesday’s ambush of soldiers in Balindong, he added.He said they have religiously been complying with the July 1997 Agreement on General Cessation of Hostilities, one of the security protocols the government and MILF bilaterally formulated to prevent undue hostilities that can derail the Southern Mindanao peace process.The enforcement of the ceasefire accord is being monitored since late 2003 by the Malaysian-led IMT, comprised of soldiers from Malaysia, Brunei, Libya and Indonesia and non-uniformed conflict resolution experts from Norway, Japan and the European Union.Macapaar said they will welcome any probe by the IMT and the government-MILF joint ceasefire committee on allegations they were involved in the hostilities that rocked Lanao del Sur the past five days.

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