Maguindanao folk flee from fresh clashes
COTABATO CITY—About 2,000 people, comprising 250 families, fled their homes when clashes broke out anew between government troops and members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Datu Hoffer and Ampatuan towns in Maguindanao province.
Maj. Arvin Encinas, spokesperson for the military’s Western Mindanao Command, said the latest fighting broke out on Tuesday afternoon when at least five BIFF members ambushed troops belonging to the Mechanized Infantry Company in the village of Tuayan in Datu Hoffer.
Encinas said there was no fatality on the government side during the 20-minute clash. Two BIFF members, however, were killed in the firefight.
Fearing for their lives, residents in communities near the clash site fled their homes and stayed at the covered courts in Ampatuan and Datu Hofer. Cezario Joel Espejo, regional director of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), said social workers had reached out to displaced families.
Espejo said the DSWD had been preparing emergency relief aid to families displaced by an earlier clash that killed a soldier. “We are closely working with local officials to provide relief assistance to these people,” he said.
Encinas said among those killed in the recent fighting were two followers of the late Basit Usman, a Filipino bomb-making expert wanted by the US government for his alleged link to the Islamic State.
Usman’s nephew, Ustadz Kamaruh, and another follower, known as Ustadz Samin, were among that reported slain in the clash.
Usman, who was killed in a military operation in 2015, was known as a master bomb maker who ran several training camps in Mindanao.
On Monday, troops from the Army’s 57th Infantry Battalion clashed with a group of militants at Barangay Salman in Ampatuan town, where a soldier was killed, according to the regional military chief, Maj. Gen. Diosdado Carreon.
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