Philippines: The War Of The Camps

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March 26, 2012: In the south (North Cotabato) disputes between factions of the rebel MILF and pro-government MNLF have led to increased tensions in the last ten days. A year ago several gun battles, leaving dozens dead or wounded, were the result of similar disputes. This time, over a thousand people have fled their homes to avoid resumed shooting. A lot of this unrest is the result of MILF and MNLF commanders who have personal disputes with each other. The army and police are trying to broker a ceasefire. Meanwhile, peace negotiations with MILF are still underway but are approaching a stalemate over the issue of Moslem autonomy in the south, in a region where many areas have Christian majorities.

Based on intelligence received from Malaysia, wanted Malaysian terrorists Zulkifli Bin Abdul Hir, thought to have been killed in an army raid last month, is now thought to be alive, badly wounded, and hiding on Jolo Island. It was originally believed that Hir's mangled body was dragged away by fleeing Abu Sayyaf terrorists. But now it appears that Hir was still alive. Troops are searching for Hir on Jolo and reminding everyone there that the U.S. is offering a $5 million reward for his capture (dead or alive). On Jolo that doesn't mean a lot. There is a lot of support for Abu Sayyaf on the island. The Islamic terrorists use religious and family connections, plus sharing past ransom payments with the locals, to obtain this popularity. Moreover, anyone claiming the reward would have to flee the area and convince a large extended family to accompany him (otherwise the family would be subject to revenge attacks). This sort of thing is why many similar rewards for Islamic terrorists have not been acted on.

The army has increased its efforts to take down the leftist NPA rebels. The NPA leadership has refused to negotiate a peace deal, and NPA gunmen are increasingly active in attacking businesses that won't go along with "revolutionary taxes" (extortion payments). The army is concentrating on finding and destroying NPA camps, which is a big blow to morale. This results in more desertions and surrenders of NPA rebels, which leads to more information about how the NPA works and where camps are located.

March 21, 2012: In the south (Surigao del Sur) troops were ambushed by NPA gunmen, leaving five soldiers wounded.

March 20, 2012: In the south (Surigao del Sur) troops found and destroyed a NPA camp, one that housed some 150 leftist rebels.  

On the island of Masbate troops fought four clashes with NPA rebels, killing three of them and capturing weapons and bomb making materials.

March 16, 2012: In the south (Northern Samar) troops found and destroyed two NPA camps, which together housed over 100 leftist rebels.  

March 15, 2012: On Basilan Island troops captured an Abu Sayyaf camp where bomb making was taught. One soldier was killed and two wounded in the operation. It was believed that an Australian man, kidnapped three months ago, was there, but if he was the terrorists got away with him. Abu Sayyaf is demanding $2 million for the release of the Australian.

On Sulu Island Abu Sayyaf leader Jeri Jeheron (with a $70,000 reward on his head) was captured.

March 13, 2012: In the south (Cabadbaran City) troops found and destroyed a major NPA camp, one that was the home for some 500 leftist rebels. While the rebels fled at the approach of the troops, much of their equipment was left behind.

 

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