A military spokesman on Friday named at least three Moro rebel commanders who led the Christmas Eve attack in two provinces in the south that left at least 10 people dead and thousands homeless.
Lt. Col. Romeo Brawner, Philippine Army spokesman, told ABS-CBN's Umagang Kay Ganda that three Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) commanders led the attacks in Alameda town in North Cotabato and Kalamansig and Ninoy Aquino towns, Sultan Kudarat.
Brawner said a certain Commander Rambo of the MILF led the attack in Alameda town and Commander Datu Kalib and a certain Commander 511 led the attack in Kalamansig town.
The Army spokesman said the military were surprised by the MILF's attacks because of the standing ceasefire agreement between the rebel group and the government.
He also denied that the military had launched offensives against the rebel fighters on December 24.
Brawner said the military has deployed more troops to the two affected towns to repel more possible attacks by the Moro separatists.
The military claimed Friday that at least 10 people were killed and eight others were wounded in the attacks.
The rebels also reportedly took hostage farmer Ramil Vicente, his wife and their two children after the raids.
Residents were preparing their Christmas eve dinner when the MILF fired a continuous barrage of mortars at the three towns around 7 p.m.
An elderly woman was also reported killed in the MILF's mortar attack.
“The attacks came while the people were setting off firecrackers. The attackers timed their attacks during the revelry,” said Alamada Mayor Ernesto Concepcion.
MILF spokesman Eid Kabalu had denied that the rebel fighters attacked the civilians. He said the incidents took place while the MILF are being pursued by military personnel.
Kabalu added that the MILF fighters were only retaliating to the military's offensive.
Social welfare officer Edmund Cordero had reported that at least 600,000 people have left their homes and sought refuge in safer areas in Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat provinces.
Cordero said social welfare units have been assisting the displaced residents.
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