Maguindanao clashes displace 30,000 villagers
SHARIFF AGUAK, MAGUINDANAO — Close to 6,000 families or 30,295 people have fled their homes in seven towns in this province because of ongoing clashes between government troops and the Islamic State-inspired local militants, the provincial social welfare office said.
Hadja Emma Ali, provincial social welfare chief, said the evacuees came from 22 villages in the towns of Datu Shariff Saydona Mustapha, Mamasapano, Datu Salibo, Shariff Aguak, Datu Saudi, Datu Unsay, Datu Piang, all in Maguindanao’s second district, the site of the military’s operations against the militants.
Ground, air assaults
Ali said at least two civilians were injured when they were hit by shrapnel after mortars landed near their houses.
She said her office had been extending aid to the evacuees.
Datu Piang and Datu Unsay towns also extended aid to the displaced families, including evacuees seeking refuge in relatives’ homes.
The military claimed more than 20 militants had been killed in ground and air assaults against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in the marshland of Datu Shariff Saydona Mustapha since Monday.
A soldier was killed and 11 others were wounded when ground troops clashed with fleeing BIFF men following helicopter attacks.
Maj. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, commander of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said one of the fatalities was a man, believed to be an Arab, who had been training local militants in making bombs.
Only 1 fighter killed
Abu Misry Mama, speaking for one of the factions of the BIFF, denied reports that his group suffered heavy casualties. “Only one fighter was killed,” he said.
Civilians displaced by the fighting were asking why war continued in the province when the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) was already in effect.
“We thought genuine peace is here with the coming of the BARMM,” said Salipada Agam, 55, an evacuee from Shariff Saydona Mustapha who sought shelter in a relative’s home in Mamasapano.
He was referring to the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) that replaced the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. The BARMM was the product of the peace process between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
Hoping for peace
“Hopes were high then that peace would finally reign and that (there would be) no more war after the BOL and BARMM,” he said. “I was wrong because fighting is still here.”
Two helicopter gunships pounded the militants’ position on Monday after some 300 heavily armed men were seen in Libutan.
An Army intelligence officer said BIFF men had gathered since Sunday night in Datu Shariff Saydona, after 30 gunmen clashed with government troops at Barangay Tuka in Mamasapano that left two soldiers and a civilian injured.
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