BIFF gunmen torch abandoned houses in Maguindanao
MAGUINDANAO — Islamic State-linked gunmen swooped down on a hinterland village earlier deserted by its population of indigenous people in Datu Hoffer Ampatuan town here early Sunday and torched about a dozen houses, the military reported on Sunday.
The attack was the latest atrocity committed by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) against the Teduday tribe in the province this week, according to Lt. Col. Gerry Besana, the chief of Civil Military Operations office of the 6th Infantry Division.
At around 4 a.m. Sunday, a still undetermined number of BIFF gunmen arrived in Sitio Makon in Barangay Limpogo and immediately started setting the deserted houses on fire.
Besana said at least 12 houses – all made of light materials – were razed.
He said the military pursued the gunmen and fired howitzers at them, but it wasn’t clear if they suffered any casualties.
Some 1,400 residents of Sitio Makon and nearby areas – which were part of Mount Firis – had earlier fled when BIFF gunmen started attacking them, following a major operation the military launched before Christmas.
On Christmas Day, three Teduday houses in the area were also razed.
On Dec. 29, BIFF gunmen seized six Teduday natives from Limpogo. But four of them managed to escape.
On the same day, BIFF gunmen killed Teduday leader Diego Met Dagadas in the upland village of Firis in Datu Saudi Ampatuan town.
Dagadas was coming out of his house on learning of the arrival of the BIFF gunmen, who then shot him several times.
According to slain tribal leader’s relatives, the gunmen set off an improvised explosive device beside Dagadas’ body before leaving the terror-stricken village/
The killilng of Dagadas came three days after the military launched air strikes toward the tri-boundary of South Upi, North Upi and Datu Saudi Ampatuan, killing about 10 armed men.
According to Maj. Gen. Arnel dela Vega, the 6th ID chief, the BIFF faction terrorizing the Tedudays is headed by Esmail Abubakar, alias Commander Bungos.
Besana said it was apparent that the BIFF wanted the Lumads out of Mount Firis, where Ameril Umra Kato started the group after bolting the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in 2008.
Senior Supt. Agustin Tello, chief of the Maguindanao Provincial Police Office, said the evacuated Teduday families were now temporary staying in the centers of Datu Unsay and Datu Hofer and were being assisted by the local governments.
As of Saturday, 285 families were housed in various evacuation sites in the adjoining towns, according to Fatima Kanakan, the director of the Office of Southern Cultural Communities in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (OSCC-ARMM).
“I hope this problem will be solved as soon as possible, the IPs are pitiful,” Kanakan said in a statement.
Lynette Estandarte, Maguindanao budget officer and focal person for the provincial relief office, said Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Toto Mangudadatu had ordered the release and distribution of 50 bags of rice for the affected families as part of the initial humanitarian assistance.
“It’s holiday, but no holiday in humanitarian work because we are talking here of lives and extending help cannot wait for another day,” Mangudadatu said in a text message.
Both Mangudadatu and ARMM Regional Gov. Mujiv Hataman vowed to provide more aid to the displaced families. /atm
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