Cotabato governor tells MILF, MNLF to stop fighting

Cotabato Governor Lala T. Mendoza urged warring forces of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front to stop fighting each other in her province.

The violence erupted Monday last week after heavily-armed MILF forces, led by a certain Commander Kineg, attacked the village of Nangaan in Kabacan town, which was claimed by veteran MNLF warrior Commander Datu Dema Ambel as their "territory."

Kineg accused Ambel and his MNLF followers of grabbing the lands of their ancestors in the said village. Ambel, however, belied Kineg's accusation.

Since then, clashes between the two warring groups started, and later escalated to other nearby villages of Simone, Kayaga, Salapungan, Buluan and Pedtad, where some MNLF and MILF members also live.

More than 500 people, including natives and Muslims residents, have been displaced by the intermittent between the two armed factions, according to the reports of the Kabacan relief workers and the staff of the International Committee of the Red Cross based in Central Mindanao region.

The displaced families are presently staying at the evacuation centers provided by the Kabacan municipal government.

Mendoza appealed to Commanders Kineg and Ambel to stop their fighting because hundreds of innocent civilians were affected by their fighting.

"Maawa naman kayo sa mga civilian. Sana hintuan na nila ang kanilang away. Sana mag-usap na lang sila," Mendoza said in a long distance interview.

Mendoza emphasized that the differences between the two armed groups can only be settled by talking to each other not by the barrel of guns.

Religious leaders and civilian organizations there are also urging the warring armed factions to stop fighting and advised them to bring their differences in the negotiating table.

They also appealed to President Benigno Aquino III to intervene by initiating efforts to end the violence happening in the said town.

Colonel Prudencio Asto, chief of the 6th Infantry Division (ID) based in Awang,Maguindanao, said that the two warring groups are still trading bullets in the upland villages of the said town.

"Nagbabarilan pa sila hanggang ngayon and we already deployed more troops there to secure the residents and other villages that may possibly affected by their fighting," Asto said.

The MNLF, founded by university professor Nurulaji Misuari, wage a campaign for an independent Moro state in the Philippines in the early 1970's but it settled a portion of autonomy that led to the creation of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) after it signed a peace deal with the Philippine government.

The peace deal irked some MNLF hard cores led by late Hashim Salamat who left the Misuari-led front and formed the MILF, which is currently negotiating a peace talk with government. (reported by RAMIL BAJO)


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