After clashes, fear still grips Basilan villagers
ZAMBOANGA CITY—Fear still grips villagers and rubber plantations workers days after clashes between government soldiers and Abu Sayyaf bandits broke out in Sumisip town in Basilan.
At least 10 soldiers and nine bandits were killed, while 17 other soldiers were wounded in Thursday’s fighting.
“Our children are afraid to go to school. The rubber tappers refuse to report to work for fear of being ambushed,” said Leniebel Cesniros, board secretary of Tumahubong Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Integrated Development Cooperative Inc. (Tarbidci).
Tarbidci has 587 member-beneficiaries. The number does not include dependents and workers.
“All of us, especially the children, are traumatized,” Cesniros said, citing 105 howitzer firings on Wednesday and Thursday last week.
Herculano Dalumbar, Tarbidci vice chair, said the plantation workers and residents had taken shelter at the church and cooperative office inside the plantation. “Only a few decided to work and harvest rubber sap because of tremendous fear,” he said.
“We cannot go out of the plantation. We can’t even harvest rubber. We are just thankful that people send food,” Dalumbar said.
The Provincial Social Welfare Development Office has distributed rice and dry goods to the residents.
Cesniros and Dalumbar called on the provincial and national governments to solve their problem with an armed group harassing the cooperative. The fighting erupted a day after Abu Sayyaf bandits harassed Tarbidci workers.
A spokesperson of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) yesterday said its forces in Basilan would not carry out any retaliatory attack following the reported death of two brothers of a field commander, Daan Laksaw Asnawi, in the clashes.
In a phone interview, Von Al Haq said the MILF would not ruin its peace talks with the government. “It’s personal. I assure the public and military we are not going to retaliate. We are in control of Asnawi’s group,” he said.
“If the incident was organizational, then we will carry out an offensive. But we cannot ruin the good outcome of our ongoing peace talks with the government,” he added.
Earlier, Col. Randolph Cabangbang, spokesperson of the Western Mindanao Command, said some MILF members might retaliate for the reported deaths of three members of the Asnawi family. Julie S. Alipala and Jeoffrey Maitem, Inquirer Mindanao
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