Philippines: Raiding The Raiders

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August 26,2008:  The army has captured fifteen MILF camps in the south, and driven over 500 MILF fighters into the bush. The MILF high command says these gunmen, who drove over a quarter of a million Christian villagers from their homes, are "renegades", but refuses to help capture the two MILF commanders who led these raids. The MILF can't stand up to the army, but over the last three decades, they have demonstrated an ability to stage these hit-and-run raids. What's different now is that the military has more helicopters and warplanes available, causing the MILF to take higher losses from these raids. In the recent battles, the MILF raiders lost about 20 percent of their number when the government security forces retaliated. The MILF also lost their camps (where they live).

August 24, 2008: The government refused to resume peace talks with the MILF, and has sent over 6,000 soldiers and police to kill or capture the hundreds of MILF fighters who sought to drive Christians out of territory claimed by the MILF as Moslem.

August 23, 2008: The army is moving against MILF camps, and about 30 rebels have died in the last two days. Over a  week of violence have left nearly 150 dead, two-thirds of them MILF, most of the rest Christian civilians. Over 200,000 Christians have been driven from their homes. The army is chasing the MILF gunmen back to their remote camps. The MILF has called for a resumption of peace talks.

August 21, 2008: The government has dropped the peace deal with the MILF, after months of intense negotiations. The major stumbling block was the transfer of Christian occupied territory to the control of the new autonomous Moslem region in the south. This was very unpopular with the hundreds of thousands of Christians involved and, to the politicians surprise, with most other Christians as well. The Moslems are a small minority (5 percent) in the Philippines, but they claim "ancestral control" over a lot of territory in the south that has long been occupied by Christians.

August 20, 2008: Retreating MILF gunmen took 63 human shields, but released them later. At least three dozen Christians died in several days of MILF raids, and over 40,000 Christian civilians fled. The MILF condemned the attacks, blaming two renegade MILF commanders (known  as Commander Bravo and Commander Kato) who were lashing out at the refusal of the government to turn over Christian occupied territory to Moslem control.

August 18, 2008: Several hundred MILF gunmen attacked Christian towns in the south, killing 28 civilians and three security men. These raids were for spreading terror, as well as looting. The army responded within 24 hours, and chased the MILF gunmen away.

August 17, 2008: Two bombs were found and disabled in the south. One was aimed at a Christian (anti-MILF) politician, and the other in a movie theater. Two other bombs did go off, in low-budget hotels, wounding a few people.

August 16, 2008: In the last week, Moslem violence against Christians in the south has left nine dead and over 150,000 people driven from their homes. Moslem militias (the MILF) are trying to take control of territory they claim as "traditionally Moslem." The army has driven the Moslem gunmen back, for the moment.

 

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