MILF ATTACKS INTENSIFY  

Zamboanga City, March 1, 2003 -- Secessionist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels yesterday attacked a civilian village and burned several houses in the town of Damulog in Bukidnon, military reports disclosed.

A civilian was killed when about 50 rebels swooped down on the village of Anggan in Damulog town at around 6 a.m. The rebels fled after setting on fire 10 houses.

The military also said the MILF again toppled another power transmission line in Mindanao but the sabotage did not send the island into darkness.

The new attack late yesterday near Buluan town in Maguindanao did not seriously disrupt power supply, which had been almost completely restored after 18 million people were left in the dark Wednesday.

Officials said a second bomb planted on another transmission tower in Pikit was safely defused yesterday.

"The MILF is on the rampage... they continue toppling down power lines" Southern Command chief Lt. Gen. Narcisco Abaya said.

The latest attack in Bukidnon came five days after the military declared a red alert in the entire Mindanao following sightings of pockets of MILF rebels consolidating and purportedly planning huge-scale attacks.

Asked why the MILF rebels still managed to launch attacks when the military is supposed to be on alert, AFP Public Information chief Lt. Col. Michael Beverlyn Manquiquis said their area of coverage is vast.

"In some cases, they were able to carry out atrocities because of the big area but eventually we will be able to catch up on them," said Manquiquis, who foresees more attacks by the MILF in the coming days.

"The way they behave in recent days, we can expect that they will continue committing atrocities, attacking power facilities, military detachments and other vulnerable targets," said Manquiquis.

Abaya, meantime, said he has ordered all military units to secure tightly all transmission lines in Mindanao to prevent another island wide blackout that has caused panic and fear of a bigger attack by the rebels.

"Ninety percent of the power that has been disrupted by the explosion perpetrated by the MILF in Lanao del Sur has been restored" he added.

Abaya said the chaos in Mindanao will only stop if the MILF stops with its offensive. The Southcom chief, however, assured the public that the government is on top of the situation.

"These incidents will only stop if they (MILF) ceases from conducting offensives," Abaya said.

The MILF has stepped up its offensive against the military positions following the fall of its camp in Buliok in Pikit, North Cotabato.

"We will just be on the defensive position. The military only reacts when the MILF moves against anyone," Abaya said.

Meanwhile, four MILF camps were discovered by Army Forces during clearing operations in the provinces of Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat since Wednesday.

Reports reaching Army Chief Lt. Gen. Gregorio Camiling Jr. said one of the encampments served as training facility for MILF recruits in central Mindanao.

Camiling said elements of the Army's 7th Infantry Battalion (IB) were scouring the vicinities of Barangay Langandang in Isulan town, Sultan Kudarat on Thursday when they discovered the MILF's headquarters of Gazzanfar Basic Military Center.

Army reports described the camp as having running trenches that can accommodate 200 persons.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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