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Militants from the Bangsamo Islamic Liberation Front attacked security forces in two towns in Maguindanao province yesterday, killing one soldier and wounding two others; 17 militants were killed in the clash, including a close aide to BIFF leader Ameril Ombra Kato. The BIFF disputed the army's report. Army operations are continuing in the area.




Australian extremist cleric Musa Cerantonio was arrested in Cebu with a female companion, several days after he had boasted that he had arrived in Syria to support the Islamic State. The Philippines military said it is checking to see if the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters is receiving financial support from the al Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiyah.




Abdel Basit Usman, a bombmaker and wanted member of the Philippines-based, al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf Group, was recently spotted during a raid on a Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters camp on Mindanao; Philippines press reports had claimed he was killed in a drone strike in Pakistan in January 2010. Basit is said to be building bombs for the BIFF, possibly with funding from Jemaah Islamiyah, al Qaeda's regional affiliate in Southeast Asia. The BIFF rejected a peace treaty signed earlier this year between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.




During a daylong battle in Basilan that began as an attempt to capture Abu Sayyaf commander Puruji Indama, three Islamist rebels and two soldiers were killed, and 29 soldiers were wounded. Abu Sayyaf is also suspected in the kidnapping of two people in Malaysia on April 2. Security forces killed two members of an Abu Sayyaf-linked kidnapping cell in Zamboanga and arrested six others, including a Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) commander and a policeman; four suspects escaped during the raid. President Aquino formally received a draft law regarding the autonomy of the Bangsamoro area from the MILF.




The government has signed a peace agreement with a Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the country's largest Muslim rebel group, giving greater autonomy to Muslim areas of Mindanao, to be called Bangsamoro, in exchange for the MILF's surrender of its weapons. The accord, reached after the loss of 120,000 lives in 40 years of conflict, and years of sporadic negotiations, does not include smaller Muslim insurgent groups such as the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and the al Qaeda-linked Islamist group Abu Sayyaf.




Government troops killed 17 Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in an offensive in Mindanao against the group, which has been trying to undermine the peace deal between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. The clash started yesterday when authorities attempted to arrest 25 BIFF members suspected of kidnapping and murder.




The government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front signed the final part of the Annex on Normalization, a 2012 peace plan, setting the stage for an agreement that allows the rebels to establish an autonomous state of Bangsamoro on the island of Mindanao in exchange for decommissioning their weapons. Jun Jalal Akilan, a.k.a. Temeng, an Abu Sayyaf militant suspected of kidnapping three teachers in 2009, was arrested in Zamboanga. Security forces clashed with some 50 New Peoples Army rebels in Zamboanga del Norte, after at least 40 NPA rebels took hostages in Zamboanga del Sur.




The government signed a peace deal with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, under which the group gives up its goal of an independent state in exchange for power and wealth-sharing in a new autonomous region. Two days earlier, MILF rebels attacked a police station in Marawi City, taking the police chief hostage, killing a civilian, and freeing a number of MILF prisoners; the MILF political affairs chief called it an isolated incident. A military official said the al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf is still holding 17 hostages in Sulu, including foreigners; a Jordanian hostage escaped or was released a few days ago.




Defense Secretary Gazmin claimed victory over the rebels in Zamboanga, but acknowledged that Habier Malik, the commander of the Moro National Liberation Front group that stormed the Mindanao port city three weeks ago, is still unaccounted for. The military said 18 soldiers, five police, and 12 civilians had been killed. Officials reported 375 rebels as either killed, captured, or surrendered during the standoff, and said all of the hostages have been accounted for. Security forces are hunting down remaining militants said to be hiding in several of the city's districts.




Some 100 Moro National Liberation Front rebels who launched an assault on Zamboanga over a week ago are still holding hostages; at least 116 hostages have been rescued. A senior police commander briefly taken hostage by a small group of rebels trying to surrender was freed. The military said that 12 troops have been killed and 115 wounded in clashes, and that 120 rebels have been killed. It also said 80 percent of the territory seized by the rebels has been reclaimed. Another report said 93 rebels have been captured or arrested.




The military claimed to have recaptured 70 percent of the territory seized by 200 militants from the Moro National Liberation Front and to have killed 51 militants, but about 100 militants are still holding some 100 hostages. As the standoff enters its second week, 82,000 people have been displaced and 850 houses have been destroyed in clashes. The military launched helicopter gunship attacks today, and the government is no longer conducting negotiations.




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.


 
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