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Defense Secretary Gazmin said there is no ceasefire between the government and Moro National Liberation Front rebels in an ongoing standoff in Mindanao in which 53 people, including 43 militants, have been killed, some 62,000 people have been displaced, and at least 100 people are being held hostage. Clashes also continued on Basilan, where one soldier was killed today.
The standoff between security forces and Moro National Liberation Front rebels in Zamboanga city in Mindanao entered its fourth day, and the death toll is said to have risen to 12. About 150 suspected Islamist rebels attacked a predominantly village near Lamitan, in the neighboring province of Basilan; three soldiers were injured as the military repelled the rebels. Negotiations between the government and the rebels are ongoing.
Moro National Liberation Front rebels are still holding 180 hostages and have seized up to 37 more as the standoff in Mindanao between security forces and the militant Islamist group enters its third day. Some 13,000 residents have been evacuated, and the government claims the situation has been "contained," but clashes continue; several people have died and at least 36 have been injured. Interior Secretary Roxas said negotiations have not yet led to a breakthrough. The rebels are said to be calling for international mediation.
Security forces clashed with about 200 militants from the Moro National Liberation Front for a second day in the southern port city of Zamboanga in Mindanao. At least four people have been killed, and some 180 civilians are being used as human shields by the militants. The city has been put on lockdown as residents have fled the fighting; over 1,000 troops have been called in, and the government is trying to negotiate a resolution. The clash began before dawn yesterday when the militants stormed the city after battling with Philippine naval forces in the port.
Suspected Islamist militants detonated a bomb in the town of Datu Paglas in Maguindanao province, wounding a soldier. A second bomb was defused at the scene by security forces. Authorities suspect that militants opposed to peace talks between the government and the main rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, were behind the bombing. A jihadist group called the "Islamic Movement in the Philippines" threatened US and Philippine interests; it also asked for support in establishing the "Islamic Emirate of the Philippines."
Security forces in Basilan raided a hideout of Abu Sayyaf leader Nurhassan Jamiri, killing seven militants; one soldier was killed and eight more wounded in the operation. During the firefight, Jamiri led militants toward a Moro Islamic Liberation Front stronghold, at which point the security forces retreated to avoid clashing with MILF. Defense Secretary Gazmin and Foreign Secretary del Rosario told Philippine congressional leaders about the government's plans to begin negotiations with the US on the implementation of "our agreed policy of increased rotational presence" of US troops.
A powerful bomb exploded in Cotabato city as a city administrator's bullet-proof SUV was passing by, killing at least six people, including the official's two bodyguards and a policeman, and injuring 25 more. Last week another bombing on Mindanao killed eight people and injured dozens more. Islamist militants are suspected in the blasts. The US, Canada, and Australia warned their citizens in July against traveling to Cotabato and two other southern cities, due to new terror threats.
A bombing at a restaurant filled with doctors attending a convention killed six people and wounded at least 48 more in the port city of Cagayan de Oro on the island of Mindanao, where Islamists have been waging an insurgency for decades. The attack occurred shortly after Islamist rebels accused the government of failing to comply with a 1996 peace accord and issued new threats.
The government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front signed a "wealth-sharing" deal that gives the militant Islamist group a 75 percent share of earnings from natural resources and metallic minerals in a region to be set aside for the Muslim minority in southern Mindanao; in addition, the government and the MILF will split energy earnings equally. A final peace deal with the 12,000-strong MILF remains to be worked out; still to be decided is how the rebels will disarm, and the extent of the proposed autonomous region, which is believed to contain hundreds of billions of dollars' worth of gold, copper, and other mineral reserves.
The US warned its citizens against traveling to Mindanao or the Sulu archipelago because of "continuing threats ... due to terrorist and insurgent activities." Earlier this week US diplomatic staff were told not to travel to Davao, Cotabato, or Zamboanga in Mindanao. Australia and Canada also warned of new threats of terrorism and kidnapping in the southern Philippines.
The military is reviving plans to build new air and naval bases at Subic Bay that would allow greater US access and use. US forces helping the Philippines counter al Qaeda-linked insurgents in the south have shared several Philippine bases since 2002, and US naval ship visits to Subic have increased over the past few years.
Vowing to defend Philippine territory against all challenges, President Benigno Aquino III said that $1.74 billion will be spent over the next five years to modernize the military. Abu Sayyaf militants released a Filipino-Chinese businessman who was kidnapped on April 7; the group is still holding at least five captives, including four foreign men and the wife of a Filipino military officer.
Seven Marines and five Abu Sayyaf fighters were killed during a clash on the island of Sulu; nine Marines were also wounded. The troops were tracking a group of Abu Sayyaf fighters behind kidnappings in the area.
Foreign Minister Albert del Rosario recommended that the Philippines pull its 342 troops out of the UN peacekeeping force in the Golan Heights, following the recent abduction of four troops by the Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade, a Syrian rebel group that abducted 24 Filipino troops in March. He said the rebels are using the four troops as human shields.
Some 100 Philippine troops raided a camp of 30 Islamist militants near Tipo-tipo on Basilan, killing eight. Authorities said wanted Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon was wounded but managed to escape. He was meeting with two Indonesians from Jemaah Islamiah and another Abu Sayyaf leader prior to the assault. The militants were said to be planning to disrupt elections; bomb materials and weapons parts were found. The government said US bases would return to the Philippines only in the event of "extreme emergency."