BIFF-Army clash kills girl in evacuation centerPhilippine Daily Inquirer
COTABATO CITY—Clashes between renegade Moro guerrillas and government soldiers continued to rage in Maguindanao and North Cotabato, leading to the death of a child and wounding of three civilians who had evacuated to shelters to avoid getting caught in the crossfire, according to a group monitoring the clashes.
Bai Ali Indayla, of human rights group Kawagib, said the child, Asnaira Usman, 4, was killed in the crossfire when members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) clashed with soldiers near an evacuation center in Datu Unsay, Maguindanao.
Usman and her family had sought shelter in the evacuation center and they were sleeping at the time of the clash, according to Indayla, quoting members of the family.
The child’s father, Arsad, was roused from sleep by a sudden pain in the leg, Indayla said, still quoting members of the Usman family.
Arsad later found that he had been hit by a bullet that went through his leg and hit his daughter, Asnaira, who was sleeping beside her father, according to Indayla.
The child was killed instantly, a bullet wound the size of a saucer gaping in the right side of her body. A picture of the dead Asnaira showed dried tears in her eyes.
Indayla said her group is demanding an investigation to determine whether the bullet that wounded Arsad and killed his daughter came from soldiers or members of BIFF, a group formed by renegade Moro guerrilla leader Ameril Umra Kato after he broke off from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
Hours after the clash that killed Asnaira, a police officer and two civilians were wounded by a roadside bomb in Shariff Aguak, a town near Datu Unsay.
Senior Supt. Marcelo Pintac, Maguindanao police chief, said a group of policemen were on the way to the town market when the bomb exploded about 100 meters from the provincial police headquarters around 6 a.m. on Wednesday.
Passengers in a civilian vehicle that happened to be passing on the same road as the police team were also wounded in the explosion, according to Pintac.
Pintac could not identify the wounded but said the bomb was made out of a 105-mm mortar shell and was remotely detonated.
Followers of Kato are suspected of being behind the bombing, said Pintac.
In Pikit, North Cotabato, two soldiers were wounded in an attack by members of BIFF on a military detachment around 1 a.m. yesterday.
Lt. Col. Benjamin Hao, head of the 7th Infantry Battalion, said Pfc. Jose Morales and Pfc. Rafael Palomar were wounded in the clash with BIFF members.
The two soldiers, said Hao, are now out of danger.
MILF earlier said control of BIFF has been transferred to more radical leaders after Kato suffered a stroke in October last year.
But a spokesperson of BIFF, Abu Misri Mama, said although Kato is sick, he continues to be in control of BIFF.
“He is still very much in command,” said Mama, assailing MILF for “circulating unverified reports.”
Mama also denied that Kato was smuggled out of Maguindanao, where BIFF maintains camps, to Cebu to be treated at a hospital.
“If he was in Cebu for medical treatment, he could have already been arrested. This is nothing but a hoax,” Mama said.
But Col. Prudencio Asto, speaking for the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said the military has confirmed that Kato is no longer in control of BIFF. Jeoffrey Maitem with reports by Charlie Señase and Edwin Fernandez, Inquirer Mindanao