MILF chief renews call for jihad, cancels peace talks

ABS-CBN, Friday 29 September 2000, 02:24 AM ZE8

SULU (ABS-CBN)—The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) secretly held its 16th general assembly somewhere in Central Mindanao a few days ago and affirmed MILF chair Hashim Salamat's declaration of jihad or holy war against the government and affirmed a decision to suspend peace talks with the government.

In a phone interview, MILF spokesperson Eid Kabalu said the group's central committee also passed a resolution to probe into alleged abuses committed by the military in the Sulu operations.

The meeting, attended by political and military leaders of the secessionist group, was held from September 22 to 24 and presided over by Salamat himself.

Also in attendance were members of the MILF central committee namely Al Haj Murad, vice chair for military affairs; Ghadzali Jaafar, vice chair for political affairs who recently arrived from Jakarta, Indonesia; and Aleem Mimbantas, chief peace negotiator.

Kabalu described the holding of the assembly as a victory in itself as shown by thousands of leaders, members and sympathizers who attended the meeting.

The military has overrun our camps but the MILF cause lives on. The whole of Mindanao is our new camp, he said.

Kabalu added the affirmation of Salamat's jihad declaration and the suspension of negotiations was an indication that the MILF does not view with sincerity the Estrada administration's resolve in addressing the root causes of the Muslim rebellion.

The government's peace policy is based on sending battalions of soldiers. It does not want to talk peace but to dictate terms of surrender to the MILF, Kabalu said.

On the Sulu situation, Kabalu said the MILF had received reports that civilians are bearing the brunt of the military's operations against the Abu Sayyaf.

It appears that the military has thrown away any semblance of respect for civilians, said Kabalu who had earlier described as un-Islamic the criminal activities by the Abu Sayyaf.

The MILF held its last general assembly in 1997 at the former Camp Bushra in Butig, Lanao del Sur, the second largest rebel camp in Central Mindanao. It fell into government hands last May 29.

On the other hand, Camp Abubakar, the largest of 46 camps, was seized by government forces on July. 9