MILF to face AFP’s wrath if it will not give up killers

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — THE National Security Adviser warned yesterday that government troops will launch an offensive against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front if it ignores the government’s demand that the group surrender the men responsible for the beheading of 10 Marines in Basilan last week.

Norberto Gonzales, also defense secretary, said institutional processes were now at work to have those guilty of the mutilation identified and turned over to the military.

“If they don’t heed our request, then we will have to get them ourselves,” Gonzales said in a telephone interview.

Asked if that meant the Armed Forces would launch a full-scale hot pursuit operation against the killers, he said that would be done “if necessary.”

“We can’t just let this pass. But first, we are going to ask them to explain,” he said.

Gonzales, also director general of the National Security Council, said an additional battalion of Marines had already been deployed in Basilan to reinforce government troops that will carry out punitive operations and search for abducted Italian priest, Rev. Giancarlo Bossi.

Retired Gen. Rodolfo Garcia, chairman of the government peace panel, said the joint ceasefire committee was looking into a report that the MILF rebels had already left the scene of the fighting when 10 of the dead or wounded Marines were beheaded.

Garcia said that after several hours of fighting in Tipo-Tipo, Basilan, the local monitoring team came and was able to persuade the MILF rebels to “disengage.” He said it was one of the members of the monitoring team who shouted “ceasefire.”

He said the ceasefire committee would find out whether MILF rebels or other armed groups were responsible for the beheading. He said that lawless armed group identified with a “some political personalities” were reported to have participated in the carnage.

When asked whether the peace talks would be suspended indefinitely or temporarily, Garcia said the Basilan killings should be treated as an isolated incident.

“If we want incidents like this not to be repeated anymore, let us support the peace process. That is the only solution,” he said.

Senator Richard Gordon also wants the government to insist that the MILF produce those who were responsible for the carnage.

“They [MILF leaders] should produce those who were responsible for this dastardly act as a show of their good faith in the continuing peace talks with the government ,” Gordon said.

The senator said that such demand should not be made a condition for the continuation of the peace talks between the government and the MILF.

“Not even the [Organization of Islamic Countries] would tolerate that. Nobody deserves to be mutilated; that is an act of inhumanity,” Gordon said.