More than 4,000 families displaced in fresh clashes in Maguindanao
COTABATO CITY — Close to 5,000 families were displaced due to fresh fighting between government troops and gunmen belonging to the Islamic State-linked Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), regional authorities said.
An assessment report from the Ministry of Social Services and Development of the Bangsamoro autonomous region counted 4,264 affected families as of Friday, most of whom are temporarily sheltered in 10 evacuation centers set up across five towns.
A few families stayed with relatives.
The MSSD said they are expecting the evacuees to top 5,000 families or as many as 25,000 people, as more were still flocking into evacuation centers on Friday and were still to be documented.
The displaced families came from several adjoining villages of Shariff Saydona Mustapha, Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Mamasapano, Shariff Aguak, and Datu Unsay towns.
The MSSD noted that apart from food and drinking water, the evacuees also need sleeping and hygiene kits, and emergency latrines, among others.
The displaced families fled their homes on March 18 as armed clashes between the Army and the local terrorists who harassed a Joint Peace and Security Team (JPST) outpost in Kitango village in Datu Saudi Ampatuan town.
A JPST is composed of former guerrillas of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and personnel of the police and Army. It is a collaborative mechanism for policing communities that were once rebel strongholds.
The clashes on Thursday erupted at 10 a.m. and then at 3 p.m. while most people in Maguindanao were preoccupied with the holding of a peace caravan to commemorate the 53rd anniversary of the infamous Jabidah massacre which is observed in the autonomous region as Bangsamoro Freedom Day.
Three BIFF gunmen were slain on Thursday while four soldiers were wounded.
Col. Pedro Balisi, commander of the Army’s 1st Mechanized Infantry Brigade, said two more BIFF gunmen were killed as of Friday in clearing operations while two were wounded.
Balisi added that soldiers also seized two 5.56mm converted rifles, one homemade 12-gauge shotgun, four improvised explosive devices, three unexploded ordnances, and three radios.
Major General Juvymax Uy, commander of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, ordered the military to be on heightened alert in the province to thwart fresh attacks from the BIFF. With a report from Ryan Rosauro
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