War in Mindanao
Update from GMANews: Death toll in MILK attacks rises to more than 30.
At least 21 people have been killed and many others were wounded in attacks carried out in Lanao del Norte and Saranggani provinces by the members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front that have since fled and were being pursued by troops, officials said Monday.
The Moro rebels, under the leadership of Commanders Bravo and Pangalian of the 102nd and 103rd brigade commands respectively, held ambuscades in several towns in these provinces, a week after the military flushed out their comrades under the command of Umbra Kato in North Cotabato province.
Chief Superintendent Nicanor Bartolome, PNP spokesman, said 21 people — seven still unidentified farmers of Barangay (village) Tapu, two civilians identified as Ricardo Gil and Ricky Salidad, and four other unidentified civilians were killed. The rest were soldiers
“As early as 1 a.m. today [Monday], Maasim, Saranggani was attacked by armed elements of MILF followed by ambuscades in Lanao Norte municipalities,” Bartolome said in a press conference at Camp Crame national police headquarters.
The rebels also killed two bus passengers and Police Officer 1 Dexter Salvacion.
They also temporarily occupied Kolambugan after burning a police patrol car and attacking the municipal police station and other government offices there but were later flushed out during military operations, prompting the rebels to take 25 civilians and use them as human shields.
But Bartolome said that as of posting time, only 10 MILF hostages remained.
“The PNP, Armed Forces are doing our best to secure other areas in Lanao as well as other provinces affected by these movements by MILF personnel,” he said.
Brigadier General Hilario Atendido, chief of the counter-terrorism unit Task Force Tabak, said the Moro rebels left Kolambugan town at about noon, taking with them male hostages.
The rebels released their women and children hostages as they left, said Atendido.
“They left the area, that is the report from our ground troops,” Atendido said in a phone interview.
Asked what prompted the pullout, Atendido said: “They can’t stay there too long. They also felt the pressure from the military.”
Asked if all towns that were attacked by the MILF have been cleared, Atendido said: “As of now wala na [As of now, there's no more].”
“But clearing operations are still ongoing in Kolambugan because we have received reports that some rebels have disguised themselves as civilians,” he said.
Earlier in the day, MILF spokesman Eid Kabalu said the leadership has ordered its men to pull out from areas that they have occupied in Lanao del Norte, as the military launched offensives against the Muslim rebels, a spokesman for the MILF said.
“The MILF leadership ordered them to pullout, get out of the area,” MILF civil military affairs chief Eid Kabalu said in a phone interview Monday.
“We did not sanction this,” Kabalu said, referring to what he described as an “occupation” of Kolambugan and Kauswagan towns.
The military said the rebels attacked Kolambugan, Kauswagan, Maigo, Linamon, and portions of Iligan City.
Kabalu said the attack on the Lanao towns showed the rebels’ frustration over the pace of the peace negotiations.
Thea Alberto, Joel Guinto