Moro group attacks Shariff Aguak village; hundreds of families flee
SHARIFF AGUAK, Maguindanao—Hundreds of families fled to this town proper late Saturday as a Moro armed group stormed an interior sub-village, some two kilometers southwest of here.
Municipal secretary Hadji Yasser Ampatuan said the attackers belonged to a sub-group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s 105th Base Command under a certain Commander Tamano.
A firefight ensued as another group of armed men shot it out with Tamano’s MILF group late Saturday, residents said.
There were no reported casualties as of 10:30 p.m. on Saturday, but dozens were seen running in their night dresses as the two groups exchanged heavy gunfire.
Residents said they learned that the fighting stemmed from last Thursday’s serving of a court warrant by government operatives for the arrest of an accused here in a 1998 murder case. They did not say who the subject of the arrest warrant was.
Since authorities failed to serve the warrant, irate Moro rebels allegedly attacked homes of known supporters of the Ampatuan clan. It was not clear why the Ampatuans were targeted.
Gov. Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) said he happened to pass by here just before the fighting started at around 3:30 p.m. Saturday.
Some members of the Ampatuan clan are facing charges for allegedly leading the massacre of 58 persons, mostly media workers, on Nov. 23, 2009.
Rasul Ismael of the ARMM’s Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG-ARMM) said he was sent by Regional Interior Secretary Anwar Malang on orders of Hataman to coordinate with the military and police division for safety evacuation of civilians to safer ground.
As of 10:30 p.m. on Saturday, Army soldiers and police personnel were helping interior residents evacuate to the town proper, many of them seen at a concrete rotunda of highways intersection.
Commuter Elmer Angeles said hearing sounds of heavy gunfire, late afternoon, passengers crouched as their bus negotiated this section of the Cotabato-General Santos Highway, en route to Cotabato City.
Reports reaching the Army’s 6th Infantry Division said the subject of the arrest warrant issued by the Regional Trial Court Branch in Cotabato City had evaded arrest.
Sammy Maulana, executive director of the ARMM’s Regional Reconciliation and Unification Commission, issued the following statement: “We call on the parties in conflict to cease hostilities and (instead) sit down to discuss and resolve their disputes in the spirit of genuine reconciliation.”
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