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08 January 2009

Rebels torch Philippine village

COTABATO (Philippines) - MUSLIM separatists torched the homes of 30 Christian families in an attack on a southern Philippines village, the military said on Thursday

No casualties were reported following Wednesday's raid by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on the farming hamlet of Sangay, but the rebels are still occupying the area, said regional military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Julieto Ando.

'The rebels set on fire a total of 30 houses of Christian civilians. The problem there has something to do with land conflict,' Col Ando told reporters.

Some 500 families have fled Sangay for the nearby town of Kalamansig, Col Ando added.

The military estimates about 150 armed guerrillas deployed in the village after it was sacked.

The government suspended peace talks with the 12,000-member MILF last year after the guerrillas attacked Christian villages across the island of Mindanao in protest at a Supreme Court ruling blocking a proposed peace settlement.

The draft accord, subsequently ruled unconstitutional by the court, would have given the MILF control over large areas of Mindanao that it deems as the large Islamic minority's 'ancestral domain'.

The fighting at one point displaced half a million civilians, according to international relief agencies that continue to serve the affected population. -- AFP

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