MILF infighting leaves 8 dead

Posted at 08/09/2011 11:37 PM | Updated as of 08/11/2011 12:26 AM

MANILA, Philippines – Eight people were killed in a clash between Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) fighters and rogue MILF members in Datu Piang town in Maguindanao.

The infighting comes just a week after the historic meeting in Tokyo between President Benigno Aquino III and MILF chief Al Haj Murad Ebrahim.

The government peace panel is alarmed over intensifying clashes among factions of the MILF in Maguindanao.

Hostilities have broken out between the MILF leadership and a faction led by Umbra Kato.

In the Armed Forces' initial report, 5 MILF fighters died and another was hurt in fighting in Datu Piang town.

Three were killed on the side of Kato's faction.

Over a hundred families were evacuated.

The military doesn't want to get involved.

“Mayroong nangyayaring away within the organization of MILF. We will protect the civilians from the fighting ng 2 magkabilang panig,” said senior military adviser BGen. Restituto Aguilar.

The government peace panel continues to monitor the fighting, since it affects the meeting between President Aquino and MILF chairman Murad.

“The existence of Umbra Kato and the BIFF [Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters] is a cause for serious concern. We are watching very carefully and very intently as to how the MILF is dealing with the group,” said Atty. Marvic Leonen.

Kato's faction was formed in 2008 when the MILF commander expressed dismay with peace negotiations with the government.

Kato was also involved in various incidents of violence against both Christians and Muslims.

The MILF said it does not tolerate Kato.

“Kapag patuloy siyang hindi sumusunod, sinusuway ang command, hindi niya ginagalang ang policy ng MILF, he is fired,” said Ghadzali Jaafar, vice-chairman for political affairs of the MILF.

The MILF added that if need be, they're ready to kick Kato out of their organization.