Palace allays fears of MNLF-Abu Sayyaf clash spillover-A A +A
Monday, February 4, 2013
(UPDATED) Malacañang on Monday allayed fears of spillover of the clash between the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in Sulu over the weekend where at least 21 people were killed.
Eight Moro rebels and at least 13 Abu Sayyaf bandits were reportedly killed during the firefight in Patikul town. One casualty from the MNLF side was identified as Wahab Omar while four of them were beheaded.
Skirmishes between the Abu Sayyaf and the MNLF erupted last Sunday following the release of two Filipino television crew members, whom the extremist rebels kidnapped in June last year along with Jordanian journalist Baker Atyani.
Atyani's two Filipino crew, cameraman Ramelito Vela and audio technician Roland Letrero, were freed in Jolo, Sulu, on Saturday.
Aside from Atyani, the Abu Sayyaf is also holding two European men.
Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said "the clash is occurring in a specific isolated area" where majority of the occupants are either members of the ASG or MNLF.
Lacierda said the government is ensuring the safety of the civilians in areas where there were clashes.
"So right now, they are being evacuated and (Social Welfare) Secretary Dinky Soliman is in fact in Mindanao right now and we have identified evacuation centers already…The civilians that have been removed in those areas are now in evacuation centers," he said.
Lacierda said they still have no details on why the MNLF and the Abu Sayyaf militants were fighting.
Malacañang is also not concerned that the MNLF, which forged a peace agreement with the government in the mid-1990s, would again engage in conflict with other armed groups in Mindanao following the clash.
Lacierda noted that a number of MNLF members have returned to the fold of government, some were occupying positions of public authority.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines, meanwhile, said that troops from the 2nd Marine Brigade who were deployed in the area have "successfully contained" the violence in Patikul town.
"The AFP and (Philippine National Police) units have prevented a spillover of the armed clash. The situation is now under control," the military said. (Jill Beltran/SDR/Emmanuel Louis Bacani/Sunnex)