[QODLink]
Asia-Pacific
Fierce clashes in south Philippines
Clashes in Mindanao raise concerns that decade-old peace pact is under threat.
Last Modified: 18 Apr 2007 09:18 GMT
Fighting in Mindanao has displaced more than
50,000 villagers [GALLO/GETTY]
The Philippine military is on high alert after days of escalating fighting with a Muslim separatist group in the southern region of Mindanao.
 
The clashes have raised fears that a decade-old peace pact between the government and the 2,000-strong Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) is in danger of collapsing.
At least 21 people, including one child, have been killed and more than 50,000 civilians displaced since fighting broke out on the island of Jolo last week.
The Philippine government has rejected an appeal by Islamic nations for a ceasefire and is instead offering a bounty for the capture of Habier Malik, a man they say is leading a splinter faction of the MNLF.
 
Government officials say the peace accord with the MNLF remains in place and that troops are only fighting Malik's break-away group.
 
They say they believe Malik's faction has close ties with the Abu Sayyaf - a group labelled a terrorist organisation by the US and said to have links with al-Qaida.
 
Reward

Last week Malik's group was blamed for mortar attacks on two marine camps and houses on Jolo island.

That attack has since sparked an increasingly fierce round of tit-for-tat fighting with the military now offering a $21,000 reward for information leading to Malik's capture.

Since the original 1996 ceasefire the military has integrated hundreds of former MNLF fighters into specially formed divisions working alongside government troops.

But the original MNLF has split into many different factions and, while its main leader, Nur Misuari, is in government custody, some 500 MNLF members are on the run.

Many of them are said to be frustrated, saying that the implementation of the peace pact has been ineffective and development that was promised at the time has not come – sentiments shared my many in Muslim-majority Mindanao.

Amina Rasul of the Philippine Council for Islam and Democracy, told Al Jazeera that more than 10 years after the peace accord the region remained a "basket-case" of the Philippines.

"Now where are we?" she said. "We have very little access to public services, we are poorest of the poor."

Rather than the development that was promised, she says, the region has instead slipped backwards with the country's highest illiteracy rates and highest incidence of conflict.

Source:
Al Jazeera
Topics in this article
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
'Justice for All' demonstrations swell across the US over the deaths of African Americans in police encounters.
Six former Guantanamo detainees are now free in Uruguay with some hailing the decision to grant them asylum.
Disproportionately high number of Aboriginal people in prison highlights inequality and marginalisation, critics say.
Nearly half of Canadians have suffered inappropriate advances on the job - and the political arena is no exception.
Featured
Women's rights activists are demanding change after Hanna Lalango, 16, was gang-raped on a bus and left for dead.
Buried in Sweden's northern forest, Sorsele has welcomed many unaccompanied kids who help stabilise a town exodus.
A look at the changing face of North Korea, three years after the death of 'Dear Leader'.
While some fear a Muslim backlash after café killings, solidarity instead appears to be the order of the day.
Victims spared by the deadly disease are reporting blindness and other unexpected post-Ebola health issues.