Maguindanao villagers flee as land dispute triggers clan war
DATU MONTAWAL, Maguindanao, Philippines — More than 3,000 residents fled the village of Dungguan here as members of warring Moro families clashed on Monday, police and military reports said.
Brig. Gen. Alfredo Rosario Jr., commander of the Army’s 602nd Infantry Brigade, said soldiers and policemen had been verifying reports that four people died as the conflict between the families of two Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) leaders entered its second day on Tuesday.
Maj. Razul Pandulo, the Datu Montawal police chief, said fighting had slowed down on Tuesday as bursts of gunfire had become intermittent.
“We are verifying reports that both sides have fatalities already but we have no body count,” Pandulo told reporters. He said they got the information from civilians whose relatives belong to the warring clans.
Reports said the MILF leaders were claiming ownership of vast tracts of land in Dungguan. Each family reportedly had two fatalities while three residents were wounded when fighting erupted Monday dawn.
Local officials said 615 families or 3,690 people sought shelter in evacuation sites in the town.
Rosario said members of the the government and the MILF ceasefire committee tried to mediate and came up with a settlement on Sunday. But the parties ignored the agreement and started shooting at each other on Monday, forcing civilians to flee.
The military had to launch artillery bombardment on Monday afternoon to disperse the warring groups.
But Rosario clarified the conflict was not an organizational fight but a “rido” (clan war) involving MILF members. MILF leaders have been trying to convince them to stop fighting and allow residents to return home.
Classes were suspended in Balogo Elementary School in Dungguan on Monday and Tuesday while tension remained high in the village.
Classes were also suspended in Matalam Farm Resettlement Elementary School in Datu Montawal and Mamalimping Elmenetary School in the adjacent village of Inug-og in Pagalungan town. —Edwin O. Fernandez
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