Muslim rebels bomb bridge, attack village in southern Philippines
May 26, 2009, 9:24 GMT
Manila - Muslim separatist rebels bombed a bridge and attacked a village in the southern Philippines on Tuesday, forcing hundreds of people to flee their homes, an army spokesman said.
Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Ponce said Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels set off an improvised explosive device before dawn at Lintokan Bridge in Datu Piang town in Maguindanao province, 960 kilometres south of Manila.
Ponce said the rebels then swooped down on the nearby village of Reina Regente, looting homes, local stores and farms before torching at least eight houses.
More than 250 residents were forced to flee their homes as fighting erupted between MILF guerrillas and responding soldiers.
'The flow of relief goods has been hampered because of the MILF's terrorist acts,' Ponce said, noting that heavy vehicles have not been allowed to pass across Lintokan Bridge following the bombing.
More than 27,000 residents have remained in evacuation centres in Maguindanao province after fleeing their homes amid fierce fighting between the MILF and the military last year, he said.
MILF spokesman Eid Kabalu denied the rebels had started the hostilities, saying, 'We have forces in the area and they will fire back when attacked.'
The MILF is the largest Muslim rebel group fighting for a separate Islamic state in the southern region of Mindanao.
Peace talks between the MILF and the Philippines government have been suspended since August 2008 after the rebels launched a series of deadly attacks in Mindanao, triggering fierce clashes with the military.
Nearly 300 people, many of whom were civilians, were killed and more than 500,000 residents fled their homes due to the rebel attacks and the subsequent fighting.