Sulu: renewed fighting threatens peace efforts
Renewed fighting in the southern Philippines has raised tension anew in many parts of Mindanao’s Sulu province where the Military has renewed efforts to crush group’s attempting to derail the peace process and also provide aid and shelter to members of Jemaah Islamiah and the abu sayyaf.
Caught in the crossfire are rebels believed to be causing problems in some areas.
‘Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza has described as “unfortunate” the recent renewed skirmishes in Sulu between the military and some elements of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) headed by renegade Ustadz Habier Malik.
Dureza said the military action was not directed at the MNLF as a whole but only against the group of Malik, who was responsible for a series of attacks on Panamao town where there were several civilian casualties and private properties destroyed.
The peace adviser said he is confident most MNLF elements in other parts of Mindanao, who now live peaceful and productive lives, will not condone the violent acts of Malik.
He disclosed that a few days prior to the attack by Malik, some channels were opened hoping to convince Malik not to pursue his announced plans of launching an attack. Even the military forces in Sulu were asked to take only defensive action at that time, he stressed.
Dureza urged Malik and his group to stop the violence. At the same time, he called on the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to exercise “due restraint” and be mindful of the adverse effects on the civilians whenever military operations take place.
He likewise called on the local goverments and the national agencies to immediately respond to the plight of the evacuees and the affected families.
The government signed a final peace agreement with the MNLF in 1996 and has since worked with various organizations, including the donor community to improve the lives of the former combatants in areas affected by conflicts.
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