ASIA/PHILIPPINES - Fighting in Jolo, peace threatened in southern Philippines- some fear that different guerrilla groups will join forces

Thursday, 10 February 2005

Manila (Fides Service) - “Peace in southern Philippines is threatened”, a mission in Mindanao told Fides. There have been reports of violent clashes on the island of Jolo, part of the small archipelago of Sulu, in the extreme south of the Philippines. This fresh outbreak of violence was unexpected since the Moro Islamic Liberation Front MILF rebels and the government in Manila, started talking about possible negotiations.
Manila has sent more army contingents bringing the number of troops present to three thousand on the small island said to be a logistic base for Abu Sayyaf terrorist group which the government is trying to eliminate. Already 60 people including 3 soldiers have been killed in latest fighting between rebels and army and hundreds of civilians have been forced to abandon their homes.
Things became worse after the army launched a February 7 attack on Abu Sayyaf positions in Jolo but according to army sources the fighting became fiercer when Moro National Liberation Front joined the action. MNLF signed an agreement with Manila in 1996 and was integrated in local civil administration. MNLF wants to pressure Manila to move the old leader Nur Misurai, a controversial figure who reached the history making peace agreement with Manila and became civil governor, to a local prison in Jolo. The new outbreak of violence is said to be a fight between supporters of Misuari and president Arroyo, also because in the end, Misuari was arrested for corruption.
Fides sources fear that MNLF, MILF and the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group may join forces represent a serious threat to peace in the southern Philippines. “The sides must continue along the path of dialogue and peace and not give in to temptations to violence”, the missionary told Fides. “Let’s hope the fighting stops, the people have suffered enough. We pray that the Lord will grant us the gift of peace”. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 10/2/2005 righe 27 parole 266)