Islamist groups including the Abu Sayyaf terrorist organization have killed or wounded more than 1,700 people in the Philippines since 2000, Human Rights Watch said in a report released yesterday.
The rights watchdog said that the toll in the Philippines had surpassed the number of casualties for the same period in Indonesia, including in the 2002 Bali bombings.
"Extremist armed groups have spread terror among civilians in the Philippines," said John Sifton, senior researcher on terrorism and counterterrorism at Human Rights Watch.
"They have bombed buses carrying workers, food markets where people were shopping, airports where relatives were waiting for loved ones and ferry boats carrying families," he said.
The rights group's 28-page report, Lives Destroyed: Attacks on Civilians in the Philippines, details bombings, kidnappings, executions and shootings mostly in Mindanao, Basilan, Jolo and other southern islands.
The group criticized the Philippine government for not prosecuting those responsible for attacks, saying that although numerous suspects had been arrested, very few had been successfully brought to trial.
The rights group also criticized new counter-terrorism laws that it said contained "dangerous over-broad provisions that violate human rights standards and broaden the scope of government power to hold terrorism suspects indefinitely."
"The Philippines doesn't need a new abusive counterterrorism law," Sifton said.
"The government isn't using the laws it already has, so why does it need new provisions that violate human rights?" he asked.
The rights group also called on the international community to exert more pressure on the Philippine government and Muslim leaders to try to put an end to the violence.
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