On Jolo Island, Abu Sayyaf is trying to get a multi-million dollar ransom from the Red Cross for one of their officials (an Italian) they still hold. Troops have been chasing the kidnappers since January. Two other men, taken at the same time, have been freed (one escaped and the other was released).
As if the NPA didn't have enough problems, now there is news of corruption among commanders (stealing money and sexual abuse of female fighters.) The NPA denies all, but wants to resume peace negotiations with the government. The government responded and agreed to resume peace talks with the communist NPA rebels.
As a peace offering, the MILF ordered all its fighters to halt kidnapping operations. Taking people for ransom has been a big moneymaker, but has been unpopular even among Moslems in the south. Not only are Moslems sometimes taken, but the government has been putting more and more police and troops into finding kidnappers and rescuing their victims. Many MILF kidnapping teams have gone rogue, so they would not have to turn over most of the ransom to the MILF leadership.
The army claims it has killed over 1,000 MILF fighters in the south, after a year of chasing three rogue MILF commanders and their followers. However, the army has recovered only 278 bodies. The MILF usually attempts to carry away the bodies of their comrades. The army claims that only 22 soldiers were killed in this operation, while the MILF has claimed to have killed 500. Given the media attention paid to army casualties, it's likely the army figure is closer to the truth. The MILF has taken a beating in the past year, which is why they want to talk peace.
July 8, 2009: UN aid agencies have suspended operations in the Moslem south, until it can evaluate the security of its personnel. The recent bombings and kidnappings have made aid workers anxious that they would become targets.
July 7, 2009: Two bombs went off on Jolo, killing six and wounding over 40. Two other bombs, one outside a Catholic church, were found and deactivated. Abu Sayyaf is suspected.
July 5, 2009: In the south, a bomb went off in front of a Catholic church, killing eight and wounding about 30. Islamic terrorists have frequently bombed Christian churches.
July 1, 2009: The MILF wants the army to halt operations in the south, and asked the government to resume peace negotiations. But there are still renegade MILF groups on the rampage down south, and the army cannot just ignore them. The MILF is falling apart (at least more than it normally is) and is under pressure to get something from the government soon, or risk complete disintegration.
June 30, 2009: In the last three days, three bombs went off, and one was deactivated, in the capitals suburbs. Police are unsure if these were the work of Islamic terrorists, or political groups trying to destabilize the government.
June 29, 2009: In the south, a bomb went off in a café, killing three and wounding 15.
June 27, 2009: On TV, four masked civilian informants were given $30,000 each, for their part in the capture of Abu Sayyaf and NPA leaders. These captures took place in the Moslem south, where informers face the very real threat of retaliation. In the south, a bomb went off in a bus depot, wounding eight. A renegade MILF group was suspected, but the MILF denied it. Elsewhere in the south, the kidnappers (back in March) of three Christian schoolteachers, is asking for $1,041 ransom for each. On Basilan, a police patrol encountered a much larger Abu Sayyaf force, and all eight policemen were killed. Elsewhere in the south, two soldiers, helping to build a school, were killed by Islamic militants.