GMA: SUCCESSFUL PUNITIVE ACTION VS. MILFManila, May 27, 2003 -- President Arroyo yesterday declared victory in a 10-day-old military campaign against "terrorist cells" allegedly sheltered by the largest Moslem separatist group in southern Philippines. Mrs. Arroyo had ordered selective "punitive" strikes against Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) units she blamed for the deadly bombings and raids on Mindanao shortly before her state visit to the United States last May 17. "The punitive military actions against the terrorist attackers of Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte and Maigo, Lanao del Norte, have been dislodged from their bases and dispersed into ragtag groups being run to the ground by the government troops," she said in a speech. "The investigation into the Davao and Koronadal bombings is bearing fruit with the arrest of the perpetrators of these and even previous terrorist attacks." The President has warned the 12,500-member MILF, that is waging a campaign to set up an Islamic state in the southern third of the mainly Roman Catholic Philippines, of giving succor to "terrorist cells." She has warned the MILF to surrender the suspected bombers and raiders responsible for nearly 100 deaths and to renounce alleged ties to foreign terror groups by June 1 or be branded as "terrorist organization." Mrs. Arroyo stressed she was not afraid of the MILF nor of the threat of the Jemaah Islamiyah that it has dispatched suicide bombers in Central Mindanao. The MILF has denied any links to the al-Qaeda terror network of Osama bin Laden or its Southeast Asian wing, the Jemaah Islamiyah. The MILF has also dismissed claims it was linked to the local Abu Sayyaf kidnap-for-ransom group, which both Washington and Manila say is affiliated to the al-Qaeda.
Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi
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