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MILF joins Philippine government in condemning attacks by rebel breakaway group

By Alito L. Malinao (Xinhua)

15:40, August 20, 2012

MANILA, Aug. 20 (Xinhua) -- For the first time, the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has categorically expressed support for the Philippine military's counter-offensive against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), a breakaway group of Moro rebels led by renegade Ameril Umbra Kato.

In earlier statements, the MILF refused to condemn the atrocities perpetrated by Kato's forces, including the bloody attacks against innocent civilians in Central Mindanao after the aborted signing of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) in 2008.

The MILF even warned the government then that it would protect Kato's forces if they are inside MILF-controlled territories.

But apparently times have changed since the MILF has recently issued formal statements condemning the recent unprovoked attacks by the BIFF against government militia detachments in Maguindanao where scores have been killed and thousands of civilians now seeking shelter in evacuation centers.

"We are condemning in the strongest sense the recent offensives done by the so-called Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF)," Ghadzali Jaafar, MILF vice chairman for political affairs, was quoted by the Manila Times, as saying.

In its special report, the Manila Times, a leading Manila daily, said that with the joining of forces of the government and the MILF, the prospects of lasting peace in Mindanao are now within reach.

"The recent attacks of Umbra Kato's forces against government and civilian targets and the government military's counter- offensives appear to make permanent peace between the government and the MILF look more possible," the Times's lead article said.

Mohagher Iqbal, MILF chief negotiator, was also quoted by the paper as saying that Kato is "an obstructionist" in the quest for lasting peace in Mindanao. "Kato is not part of the MILF. He is plain and simple spoiler of the peace process," Iqbal said.

The statement of Jaafar and Iqbal came on the heels of an editorial carried by Luwaran.com, the MILF's propaganda website, which also condemned the BIFF attacks.

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