Hundreds flee as group storms village
SHARIFF AGUAK, Maguindanao—Hundreds of families fled to this town proper late on Saturday as a Moro armed group stormed an interior subvillage, some 2 kilometers southwest of here.
Hadji Yasser Ampatuan, municipal secretary, said the attackers belonged to a subgroup of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s (MILF) 105th Base Command, under a certain Commander Tamano.
A fire fight ensued as another group of armed men shot it out with Tamano’s MILF group late on Saturday, residents said.
There were no reported casualties as of 10:30 p.m. on Saturday, but hundreds were seen running as the two groups exchanged gunfire.
Residents said they learned that the fighting stemmed from last Thursday’s serving of a court warrant by government forces for the arrest of an accused here in a 1998 murder case. They did not say who the subject of the arrest warrant was.
Because authorities failed to serve the warrant, irate Moro rebels allegedly attacked the houses of known supporters of the Ampatuan clan.
Gov. Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), said he happened to pass by here just before the fighting started around 3:30 p.m. on 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 Department of the Interior and Local Government 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 grounds.
As of 10:30 p.m. on Saturday, Army soldiers and police personnel helped interior residents evacuate to the town proper, many of them seen seeking shield from concrete barriers.
Commuter Elmer Angeles said that 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 National Bureau of Investigation subject had evaded arrest based on a warrant issued by the Regional Trial Court in Cotabato City.
Sammy Maulana, executive director of the ARMM 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.” Nash B. Maulana, Inquirer Mindanao
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