Philippine rebels declare cease-fire to heed UN chief’s call amid COVID-19 pandemic

The communist insurgency has raged mostly in the Philippine countryside for more than half a century in one of Asia’s longest-running rebellions. (AFP file photo)
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Updated 25 March 2020

Philippine rebels declare cease-fire to heed UN chief’s call amid COVID-19 pandemic

  • Communist insurgency has raged mostly in the Philippine countryside for more than half a century
  • Government declared a unilateral cease-fire with communist guerrillas last week to focus on fighting the coronavirus outbreak

MANILA: Communist guerrillas in the Philippines said Wednesday they would observe a cease-fire in compliance with the UN chief’s call for a global halt in armed clashes during the coronavirus pandemic.
New People’s Army guerrillas have been ordered to stop assaults and shift to a defensive position from Thursday to April 15, the Communist Party of the Philippines said in a statement.
The rebels said the cease-fire is a “direct response to the call of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for a global cease-fire between warring parties for the common purpose of fighting the Covid-19 pandemic.”
Guterres issued the call on Monday, saying, “It is time to put armed conflict on lockdown and focus together on the true fight of our lives.”
The communist insurgency has raged mostly in the Philippine countryside for more than half a century in one of Asia’s longest-running rebellions. The military estimates about 3,500 armed guerrillas remain after battle setbacks, infighting and surrenders reduced their forces in decades of fighting although the rebels claim they have more armed combatants.
The rebels said their cease-fire is unrelated to a similar move by the military and police but said it can foster the possible holding of preliminary talks to resume long-stalled peace negotiations.
President Rodrigo Duterte declared a unilateral cease-fire with communist guerrillas last week to focus on fighting the coronavirus outbreak that prompted him to place the northern third of the country under a strict quarantine. The rebels are active in the northern region, home to more than 50 million people.
Duterte launched peace talks with the rebels when he took office in mid-2016. But the negotiations, brokered by the Netherlands, eventually bogged down with both sides accusing the other of continuing to carry out attacks.
Although he has often lashed out at the rebels, Duterte has repeatedly signaled he is open to resuming negotiations with them. In December, he sent an envoy to meet communist rebel leaders on self-exile in Europe to discuss the prospects of resuming peace talks.


Friend of Manchester Arena bomber to be released on parole

Updated 26 November 2020

Friend of Manchester Arena bomber to be released on parole

  • Abedi visited Abdallah in prison twice and the pair were in regular telephone contact discussing martyrdom
  • Abdallah has “important evidence” about the background to the deadly attack

LONDON: A friend of the Manchester Arena bomber imprisoned on terror charges is to be released on parole.
Abdalraouf Abdallah, who has “important evidence” about the background to the deadly attack, has refused to cooperate with the public inquiry into it, The Guardian reported.
He was visited by attacker Salman Abedi in jail in the months leading up to the arena bombing in which 22 people lost their lives and hundreds more were injured.
Abedi visited him in prison twice and the pair were in regular telephone contact discussing martyrdom, the inquiry heard.
Abdallah was jailed in 2016 for more than five years for involvement in helping people join extremists in Syria. Despite his refusal to speak to lawyers for the inquiry about his links with Abedi, Abdallah will be released on parole.
He is claiming legal privilege by refusing to answer questions that may incriminate him, the hearing into the attack was told.
“We have no doubt he is a witness with important evidence to give. We are continuing to pursue this line of inquiry. We hope on reflection he will cooperate, so will press for him to give evidence before the inquiry,” Paul Greaney QC, counsel to the inquiry, previously said.
“Salman Abedi’s relationship with Abdalraouf Abdallah was one of some significance in the period prior to the bombing and we are determined to get to the bottom of it,” Greaney added.
Abedi visited Abdallah in London’s high-security Belmarsh prison in February 2015 while he was on remand for terror offenses and in January 2017 at another prison in Liverpool.