Land conflict triggers war

The Mindanao Examiner Regional Newspaper - - First Page -

COTABATO CITY – A clan war erupted between Moro rebels and villagers in North Cotabato province in southern Philippines last week and authorities say land conflict triggered the violence.

It said the clashes broke out in Buricain village in Pigcawayan town where rebels and followers of Abdula Maracuar had been fighting sporadically following the killing of a 16year old John Paul Maracuar. The teener was shot dead by rebels under the 105th Base Command of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front which signed a peace deal with Manila last year.

Dozens of civilians have already fled their homes for fear they would be caught in the middle of the fighting. Both groups were fighting over control of ancestral domain in the area with the protagonists claiming ownership over a vast tract of land. It was unknown if there were casualties in the fighting.

There was no immediate statement from the rebels, but the MILF had been involved in similar clashes in the province and nearby areas.

In September, at least 5 people were wounded when MILF gunmen attacked civilians in the village of Lutayan in Sultan Kudarat province that military officials said stemmed from a land conflict between the two groups. Among the wounded in the attack were village officials.

Despite the peace accord, the MILF still holds a huge arsenal of weapons and thousands of its members are also armed. In 2008, hundreds of MILF rebels attacked several towns in southern Philippines after a Muslim homeland deal with the government failed. Gunmen went on a shooting rampage and pillaged villages in the towns of Kolambugan, Bacolod, Maigo, Tubod and Kauswagan as they advanced to other areas in Lanao del Norte, Sarangani and Sultan Kudarat.

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