ZAMBOANGA CITY: The Philippines’ largest Muslim rebel group, Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), tightened its security following clashes with rival group Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in the southern region of Mindanao.
The weekend fighting left two MNLF gunmen dead and one MILF rebel wounded, said Von Al-Haq, a spokesman for the MILF.
He said the fighting was triggered by a long-running land dispute between MILF leader and MNLF commander in North Cotabato’s Matalam town. “The MNLF entered our territory and this started the fighting,” he told The Manila Times.
Al-Haq said the MNLF gunmen led by Malano Saban under Dima Ambil, encroached inside an area being held by the MILF, triggering a firefight.
The fighting between the two rival groups had forced government forces to close a highway in North Cotabato to protect travelers from the violence.
Al-Haq said the fighting has subsided, but tension is still high in the area. “We are in heightened alert just to be sure and also as a protection to MILF forces in the area,” he said.
“All the unlawful act made and done by the MNLF they accused and thrown to the MILF, and if Datu Dima Ambil is fair enough, their conflict can be resolved peacefully since he is the only and old traditional leader in the area,” he said.
Ambil’s group is locked in a bitter feud with the MILF and fighting between the two sides had been going on and off for years now. And every time clashes occur, civilians flee their homes for fear they would be caught in the crossfire.
The moderate MILF under Salamat Hashim broke away with the main MNLF group of Nur Misuari in 1978 over differences in policies. Misuari forged a peace deal with Manila in 1996 and now the MILF is currently negotiating with the government in an effort to end the bloody fighting in the South.