Ambush by IS followers on convoy of relief workers kills hitch hiker in Maguindanao
CAMP SIONGCO, Maguindanao—A 23-year old man who hitched a ride in one of the vehicles carrying government relief workers was killed in an ambush by terrorists with links to Dawlah Islamiya (DI), an Islamic State affiliate, in the town of South Upi, Maguindanao province early on Sunday (Jan. 3).
Lt. Col. Anhouvic Atilano, speaking for the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said the attack was carried out by members of Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), who have ties with DI.
Killed was Thelmo Divinagracia Sasi, of the village of Itaw in South Upi. Three were wounded. South Upi Mayor Reynalbert Insular, who was in the convoy, was unharmed.
Soldiers of the 57th Infantry Battalion extracted people in the convoy from the ambush site also on Sunday as two attack helicopters fired rockets and machine guns at the fleeing BIFF members. Sasi was declared dead at the South Upi Community Hospital.
Insular said relief workers had distributed goods to villagers of Itaw who had fled their homes after BIFF men were seen in their area.
Sasi hitched a ride back to South Upi town proper. Three relief workers—King Sasi, John Andro Tumbaga and Pao Dalimbang—were wounded in the attack. The mayor said contrary to reports, no councilor was wounded.
The mayor joined the distribution of relief goods to at least 599 families.
In a phone interview, Atilano said the BIFF’s objective was to “grab the ancestral lands of IPS there” at the village of Itaw. “That is why they are attacking the IPs,” Atilano said.
“We were already returning to the town center when we heard two explosions beside the road followed by gun bursts from different directions,” said Insular, recalling the attack.
He said the Army’s quick response saved the people’s lives. The Army, he said, should have a presence at the village to prevent another attack on the indigenous peoples.
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