Thursday, October 19, 2006

Rumors of war sweep Lanao

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (BEN BALCE / Oct 18) – Residents of a Lanao town where major fighting started between government forces and secessionist rebels in 2000 are bracing for a rebel offensive after the month of Ramadan.

Mayor Jackmar Maruhom of Kauswagan, Lanao del Norte, told his constituents to "get ready for an emergency" after Oct. 24, the end of Ramadan.

"Public schools in elementary and high schools will be the venue for evacuation centers as one the contingency plans of the local government," Maruhom said on Tuesday.

Maruhom said the reported attacks would come from the two MILF camps in the towns of Munai and Poona-piagapo also in Lanao del Norte.

MILF fighters based in Munai under a Commander Bravo reportedly have been given the mission of taking over Kauswagan in a repeat of the 2000 hostilities.

Kauswagan was retaken at the cost of scores of soldiers killed.

The Army’s 4th Infantry Division based here declined to comment on the reported threat.

In a press conference Monday, Iligan City Mayor Lawrence Cruz quoted intelligence reports as saying MILF fighters are converging in the hinterlands of Lanao del Norte.

But the rebels could just be gathering for consultations on the peace talks between the MILF and government.

The peace talks in Kuala Lumpur have been suspended over a deadlock on the coverage of a proposed "ancestral homeland" for Muslims.

Dr. Safrullah Dipatuan, vice chairman of the Bangsamoro Development Authority and a member of the MILF peace panel, said there was no order from the MILF leadership for the movement of troops.

"It’s only order is to prepare the MILF ranks for any untoward incident within their respective camps, meaning defensive positions," Dipatuan said.

Dipatuan said that if ever there are some movements of MILF troops, they should go back to their camps and take up defensive positions.

MALAYA, The National Newspaper

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