MANILA, Philippines — More than 60 peace activists, including about a dozen foreigners, plan to travel to the southern Philippines this week to investigate alleged violations of a cease-fire between the government and Muslim guerrillas, organizers said Monday.
More than 30 people have been killed and dozens wounded in bomb attacks and an ambush in December, which the government blamed on the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front. The guerrillas, who have been fighting for Muslim self-rule for three decades, deny violating the 1997 cease-fire, which was renewed in 2001.
Activists said they have notified the military and the rebels about their potentially dangerous mission, which they plan to start Tuesday. They said participants would travel unescorted most of the time.
The weeklong mission will take the Filipino activists and observers from Australia, East Timor, Germany, Indonesia, Malaysia and the United States to scenes of recent deadly clashes in at least four southern provinces — Cotabato, Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur and Lanao del Norte.
Apart from cease-fire violations, the group called the Mindanao People's Caucus wants to look into the plight of villagers affected by the fighting and reports of displacement of villagers.
"It's daring but we need to do this," organizer Gus Miclat said.
"They're waging war in the people's name and the people should assert their right to peace," said Miclat, adding the group's findings will be made public and submitted to the government and the rebels.
Adam Rudkin, a 25-year-old university teacher from Adelaide, Australia, said he was confident the organizers will take care of their security, but added that each foreign participant could decline to venture into risky areas.
"Both sides have assured our safety," Rudkin said. "I'm confident and I'm looking forward to going into those areas."
Several countries, including the United States and Australia, have advised their citizens against traveling to the southern region of Mindanao.
The country's impoverished south is home to many lawless groups, including the Muslim extremist Abu Sayyaf and the Pentagon gang, notorious for kidnappings and killings. Both groups are on a U.S. list of terrorist organizations.
In the latest bout of fighting Sunday, the Philippine army said it clashed with about five MILF guerrillas in the village of Kitango in Maguindanao province, killing one rebel.
Army spokesman Maj. Julieto Ando accused the guerrillas of violating the cease-fire, but a rebel spokesman said the armed men did not belong to the MILF.
A Christmas Eve bomb attack, which the military blamed on the MILF, killed 17 people in Maguindanao's Datu Piang town, including the mayor. Less then a week later, an ambush on a Canadian mining company's workers left 13 people dead. The MILF has denied involvement.
The government and the guerrillas plan to resume formal peace talks, suspended in 2001, later this month in Malaysia.story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/ap/20030106/ap_wo_en_po/as_gen_philippinE-mail this article