End to Philippine Muslim insurgency near !
THE Philippine government says a "historical" roadmap to end a decades-long Muslim insurgency that has left more than 150,000 people dead could be signed within days.
The government issued the upbeat forecast on Tuesday as the latest round of peace talks with the 12,000-strong Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) began in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur.
"We are on the brink of layering the written predicates that can frame the process of building trust as we usher in an era of peace, of hope and of recovery," chief government negotiator Marvic Leonen said at the start of the talks, according to a Philippine government statement.
"We cannot postpone any longer. Now is the time," he said.
"To state that what we hope to be able to do in the next few days is historical is definitely an understatement."
Mohagher Iqbal, chief negotiator for the MILF, said in his opening remarks that negotiations were "now on the home stretch", according to the statement.
However he warned a resolution must be reached soon, after previous false dawns in the peace process had led to more violence.
"If we cannot conclude it soon successfully, now that we are at the brink of the exercise, we will be in trouble," Iqbal said, warning of "spoilers" who may want to derail the peace efforts for their own interests.
The government and the rebels said ahead of the talks there was a strong spirit of co-operation following months of intense diplomacy.
But they also conceded many of the issues that derailed previous peace efforts had still not been agreed upon.
Among the toughest points to be resolved are the extent of the MILF's power in an envisioned autonomous region in the southern island of Mindanao, and the exact terms of proposed wealth sharing in that area.
Mindanao is home to vast untapped reserves of gold, copper and other minerals, as well as being one of the country's most important farming regions.
There are roughly four million Muslims in Mindanao, which they see as their ancestral homeland dating back to Islamic sultanates established before Spanish Christians arrived in the 1500s.
The MILF and other Muslim rebel groups have been fighting for independence or autonomy in Mindanao since the early 1970s.
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this just in a hour after the above story
A BREAKAWAY group of Muslim rebels armed with chainsaws and guns have launched simultaneous attacks across 11 towns in the southern Philippines.
Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) attacked an army detachment, touching off gunbattles in the southern province of Maguindanao, the army and police said today.
At least one soldier was wounded as sporadic fighting raged into daybreak, said provincial police chief Senior Superintendent Marcelo Pintac.
The rebels had cut down electrical relay posts before dawn, plunging several towns into darkness.
The fighting raised fears it could lead to large displacements of villagers, said regional military spokesman Colonel Prudencio Asto, and forced schools to suspend classes for the day.
"We are on defensive posture now and we will take care of the communities and the people," he said, adding that commuters were also advised to avoid passing along highways where fighting could spill over.
The BIFF is headed by Ameril Umbrakato, a Saudi Arabian-educated guerrilla who splintered from the 12,000-strong Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which had entered into peace talks with Manila.
Umbrakato had boasted of having about 5,000 armed fighters, though military officials believe he only has a few hundred under his command.
Umbrakato is known to be a Muslim hardliner and he has accused his former comrades of betraying the rebellion's ultimate goal of an independent Islamic state in the troubled south.
The government has said it hopes to sign a peace deal with the MILF by the end of the year, but had asked the MILF leadership to help contain Umbrakato's forces.
The Muslim insurgency began in the early 1970s and the fighting has killed some 150,000 people as well as plunged large parts of the south into deep poverty.
seems to be going as expected
now they admit to 150,000 dead from islam in the PI in recent years ..