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Philippines: Mindanao Suffers Blackout Following Rebel Attack - 2003-02-27

The southern Philippine island of Mindanao suffers a total blackout Thursday after suspected Muslim separatist rebels bomb a key power transmission line. This is the 12th attack on power installations since government troops launched an offensive against the group early this month.

Power supply on the entire island of Mindanao was restored late Thursday - several hours after an important power transmission line was blown up outside Iligan City, some 800 kilometers from the capital of Manila. Islamic rebels are suspected of staging the debilitating explosion.

Government officials immediately activated emergency generating stations to bring electricity back to the island - the second largest in the Philippines.

Officials say the situation is under control, but they are bracing for more attacks.

"[The] situation is critical," explained Tuting Hamoy, a senior vice president of the Philippine National Power Company. "Meaning that if there's another line toppled then perhaps it will cause another blackout."

This is the 12th attack on government power installations in a month.

Officials suspect Moro Islamic Liberation Front guerillas because the military launched an offensive against the group at about the same time as the first attack. Thursday's explosion comes just two days after MILF leader Hashim Salamat called for an "all-out war" against the government.

The MILF denies responsibility.

The clashes have led to the virtual collapse of nearly two years of peace talks. The two sides are scheduled to meet in Malaysia for a new round of negotiations. But the MILF refuses to attend unless the military withdraws from MILF areas and halts its offensive.