130K Flee Rebels in Philippines

Battles with Islamic separatists threaten humanitarian disaster
By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 12, 2008 7:32 AM CDT
Philippine troops fire howitzers at Muslim rebel lairs in Midsayap town, North Cotabato province, southern Philippines on Sunday Aug. 10, 2008.   (AP Photo/Jeff Maitem)
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(Newser) – Fighting in the southern Philippines between government forces and Islamic separatists has now displaced 130,000 people, the New York Times reports, and welfare officials are warning of a humanitarian disaster as battles once confined to two provinces have spread throughout the island of Mindanao. Thousands, most of them Muslims, have been fleeing the area.

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front has been fighting to establish an Islamic state in the Phillipines for decades. While the rebels and the government were set to sign a peace agreement, the country's supreme court upheld a petition to block it. The government has come under severe criticism for its handling of the issue, with one congresswoman saying, "The peace process is turning into a humanitarian mess."