Purge terrorists from ranks, Macapagal tells MILF

ZAMBOANGA - Muslim separatists should purge their ranks of "terrorist cells" if they were to resume peace talks with the Philippine government, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo said Thursday.

Macapagal said the objective of the peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) was to "insulate the rebel formations from terrorist enclaves" and eventually end its 25-year rebellion in the south.

"We have known for some time now that some MILF groups are infected with terrorist cells and we have called upon the MILF leadership to purge these from its mainstream," Macapagal said in a statement.

"This is a sine qua non to peace and must be decisively and relentlessly pursued," Macapagal added.

Macapagal said a rash of "terrorist events in the region demand a more intensive and urgent effort on the part of the MILF to completely purge its ranks of terrorists."

Macapagal's statement came a day after the US envoy to Manila warned the MILF risked losing up to 30 million dollars in development aid if it did not cut ties to the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), an Islamic militant group in the region blamed for last year's Bali bombing that left over 200 dead.

The Philippine military has also accused the MILF of sheltering JI bomb expert Fathur Rohman al-Ghozi, now believed hiding in the southern Philippines after escaping from a Manila police jail in July.

But MILF spokesman Eid Kabalu brushed off the US warnings, saying accusations of terrorist links were concocted by the government to get Washington to put pressure on the rebels.

"This is a recycled allegation and we have nothing to cut because there are really no ties," Kabalu said.

Allegations of MILF links to the JI were "part of the pressure which is favorable to the (Philippine) government for us to come to an agreement," Kabalu said in the southern Philippines.

"The MILF will not succumb to pressure because what we want here is genuine peace," he added.

Kabalu said they were inviting the US and other foreign governments to observe the situation in areas where the MILF are active to prove that they have no links to the JI.

"We are opening our doors. We have no connections or ties as they report," he said.

Peace talks between government and the MILF stalled in Maya after Macapagal accused the rebels of being behind a spate of deadly bombings in the south. But MILF leader Salamat Hashim publicly denied links to the JI and both sides signed a truce in July.

There have been no major flare up of violence since the truce, and the talks are expected to resume this month in Malaysia, a member of the influential Organization of Islamic Conference, which has been brokering the negotiations.

02/10/2003

Bron : inq7.net

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