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Rebels say charges against leader will endanger peace negotiations

Rebels say charges against leader will endanger peace negotiations

Muslim guerrillas on Wednesday protested their chieftain's inclusion in a criminal complaint filed in connection with recent bomb attacks in the southern Philippines, warning it could endanger already-stalled peace talks.
Police filed a murder complaint Tuesday against Moro Islamic Liberation Front chairman Al Haj Murad and several suspected MILF commanders for allegedly plotting an October 10 bombing that killed six people and wounded 29 in southern North Cotabato province, government prosecutor Al Calica said.
The complaint also named three Indonesian militants, including top terror suspects Dulmatin and Umar Patek, and a Pakistani national, he said.
Dulmatin and Patek - believed to be hiding in the southern Mindanao region - have been blamed for some of Southeast Asia's worst terrorist attacks, including the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people.
Rebel spokesman Eid Kabalu denied Murad was involved in the attacks and warned of a "total breakdown" in the Malaysian-brokered peace talks if the government pursues criminal charges against the rebel leader.
He said the MILF would ask the government to withdraw Murad's name from the complaint and is checking to see if any of the other alleged militants named in the complaint are MILF members.
"If they pursue this, it may lead to a total breakdown in the peace process," Kabalu said.
Negotiations hit a snag in early September over the size of a southern area that would fall under Muslim control as part of a peace deal.
The government has expressed confidence that a three-year-old cease-fire would hold despite the impasse.
Regional police Chief Superintendent German Doria said Murad and other MILF commanders were implicated in the attacks by a surrendered rebel, who allegedly witnessed them planning the bombings.
Ambas Tukan has alleged that his commander and other MILF rebels, an Indonesian bomb expert identified as Jabide Abdul, and a Pakistani, Usman al Majad, met early this month in a rebel camp in North Cotabato to plot the bombings.
The militants "planned and discussed to execute simultaneous bombings within central Mindanao upon orders from the MILF central command through chairman Ibrahim Murad," Tukan said in a sworn affidavit seen by The Associated Press.
Tukan claimed that days later, he overheard his commander discussing the planned bombings with a number of people, including Murad and Dulmatin.