2 dead, 270 families flee Cotabato clash

Agence France-Presse
Fighting between rival armed insurgent groups left 2 people dead and sent around 270 families fleeing their homes in the southern Philippines, a military spokesman said

COTABATO, Philippines – Fighting between rival armed insurgent groups left 2 people dead and sent around 270 families fleeing their homes in the southern Philippines, a military spokesman said Sunday, March 25.

Eight houses were also burned as members of the main Muslim rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) battled fighters from the older Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), said Colonel Prudencio Asto.

After a week of sporadic gunshots, MILF fighters attacked members of the MNLF in the agricultural town of Carmen in Cotabato province on Saturday, March 24, leaving one dead on each side, he added.

MILF spokesman Von al-Haq said the fight was sparked by a personal feud between an MILF leader called Commander Karim and an MNLF leader called Commander Teo and that it was not a wider war between the 2 groups.

“They (the fighters) are alleging that Commander Teo is the mastermind of the killing of the wife of Commander Karim about 3 weeks ago,” he told AFP.

He did not know why the woman was killed.

The MILF, which is engaged in a ceasefire and peace talks with the government, has dispatched officers to the area to stop the hostilities while the military said it is sending troops to separate the two sides.

There were about 400 MILF fighters and 300 MNLF members known to be operating in the farming village where the fighting broke out, the military added.

The MNLF was the original Muslim rebel group fighting for an independent Islamic state in the southern third of the largely-Christian Philippines in the early-1970s.

However, when the MNLF signed an agreement with the government to seek some autonomy instead, the MILF split to wage their own war starting in 1978.

In 2003, a truce was signed with the MILF to pave the way for peace talks with the government.

Despite the peace process, MILF and MNLF fighters have been allowed to retain their weapons and individual commanders from both groups occasionally clash in the south over land and political influence. – Agence France-Presse

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