RealNews

Arroyo Says Peace Moves Outweigh Hunt for Militant

Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo told troops on Tuesday the peace process with the country’s largest Muslim rebel group must not be harmed by the hunt for an escaped Indonesian militant. Her comments during a visit to the insurgency-hit southern island of Mindanao reflected concerns the military contingent searching for Fathur Rohman al-Ghozi may provoke skirmishes that would snap a truce with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Al-Ghozi, a member of the Islamic militant network Jemaah Islamiah and accused of masterminding bombings that killed 22 people in Manila in December 2000, escaped from a cell at national police headquarters in Manila in mid-July. The MILF has complained that the army was using the hunt for the Indonesian militant as a premise to attack rebel positions in central Mindanao. A ceasefire has been holding since August. “The hunt for al-Ghozi will continue on the sidelines of our advancing peace and development initiatives in Mindanao,” Arroyo told the troops deployed to recapture the militant. Peace talks to end the three-decade separatist conflict, which has killed at least 120,000 people in the overwhelmingly Roman Catholic country, are expected to restart next month under the auspices of neighbouring Malaysia. Full Story

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