Maguindanao clashes trap 700 more
Folks resort to waving white flagsPhilippine Daily Inquirer
COTABATO CITY—More and more civilians are being trapped in clashes between government soldiers and a group of breakaway Moro rebels, with some civilians being forced to wave white flags to indicate they were noncombatants.
Mike Sula, municipal planning officer of Datu Unsay, Maguindanao, where the fighting was heaviest since Sunday, said at least 700 persons are also trapped in Barangay Satan.
At least 1,000 people are trapped on a hill in the town as continuing gun battles prevent them from getting to evacuation centers, according to relief officials.
“They raised white flags to inform the warring groups they are not combatants,” said Sula.
Authorities had said they were trying to negotiate a temporary ceasefire between the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and the military to allow the passage of fleeing civilians.
Residents fleeing clashes between soldiers and gunmen belonging to the group led by Ameril Umra Kato since Sunday have been swamping evacuation centers in at least six Maguindanao towns.
Loreto Rirao, head of the disaster response office of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), said the number of evacuees has risen to 25,650 individuals.
They are getting aid from government and private agencies in the town centers of Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Shariff Aguak, Ampatuan, Guindulungan, Datu Unsay and Datu Abdula Sangki.
Although the clashes are mainly between the BIFF and soldiers, civilians could not avoid fearing for their lives, said Pombain Karon-Kader, ARMM social welfare secretary.
Since Sunday, she said two civilians had died in the cross fire.
Rirao quoted reports reaching the ARMM regional disaster risk reduction management council as saying at least 22 houses had been burned since Sunday in the town of Datu Unsay.
He said as of Wednesday, 10 persons were killed in the clashes, including the two civilians.
Rirao said based on reports reaching his office, the military and the BIFF suffered four fatalities each.
The slain soldiers were identified as Sgt. Sonny Estabillo, Pvt. Daniel Aragon, Pfc. Arsenio Nunescan and Pfc. Henry Caunga.
Three soldiers, identified as 1Lt. John Dave Aguilar, Cpl. Rommel Mantos and Pfc Mar Batanas, had been wounded.
Raging gun battles
Rirao said some evacuees in several areas have not received help because the gun battles are still raging and preventing aid workers from moving into the evacuation centers.
He said a ceasefire was needed in some villages of Datu Unsay, where fighting was fiercest, before relief goods can be sent in.
Kader said three truckloads of relief goods were awaiting distribution “depending on the safety of our workers and volunteers.” Edwin Fernandez, Charlie Senase and Jeoffrey Maitem, Inquirer Mindanao