Zamboanga City, Feb. 27, 2003 (Al Jacinto, PHNO Mindanao Bureau) -- Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels last night bombed a vital power station of the government-run National Power Corporation in Mindanao, cutting off electricity to 90% of the entire island, officials said Thursday.

At least three rounds of 81-mm mortars slammed late Wednesday into the Agus-5 Sub-Station in Balo-i town in Lanao del Norte province, a provincial Army commander Col. Ernesto Boac said.

"Guerrillas attacked the power station with mortars, damaging the facility and plunging Mindanao into darkness," Boac told reporters this morning after inspecting the power station.

Boac said troops were deployed in the town's hinterlands to pursue the attackers, led by MILF leader known only by his nom de guere as Commander Bravo. The military tagged Bravo as behind the spateof attacks on power pylons in Central Mindanao

A regional military spokesman Lt. Col. Daniel Lucero said rebels also toppled a power pylon near Iligan City in Lanao del Sur province. "The MILF have earlier threatened to attack power stations and steel towers and we are blaming them for these latest attacks," Lucero said.

Southern Command chief Lt. Gen. Narciso Abaya has ordered deployment of troops Thursday in the provinces to guard against rebel attacks. "We have sent soldiers to guard vital power facilities in Mindanao and at the same time troops are hunting down the terrorists responsible for the attacks," Abaya said.

Abaya has appealed to the public to stay vigilant and cooperate with police and military authorities by providing information about presence of gunmen in their areas. "The fight against terrorism is not just the military, but everybody," he said.

Engineer Maximo Adiong said 90% of Mindanao were without electricity for hours after the attack. The attack occurred past 11 p.m. and power was partially restored before sunrise.

"Ninety percent of our customers are affected by the blast that occurred 11.22 p.m. There is a report that one tower was bombed and damaged. We are currently working to restore complete electricity in Mindanao," Adiong said.

The MILF, the country's largest separatist Muslim rebel group, is still fighting for independence in the southern Philippines. Manila has suspended peace talks with the MILF two years ago because of continued rebel attacks on civilian and military targets.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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