Saturday Sep, 30 2023 04:08:24 AM

Moro families displaced by clashes in Maguindanao del Sur

Mindanao Armed Conflict • 08:00 AM Sat Apr 8, 2023
John M. Unson
 Houses razed by fire amid  gunfights in Datu Saudi Ampatuan. (From PRO-BAR)

COTABATO CITY --- Guns are silent in troubled barangays in Datu Saudi Ampatuan town since Wednesday but evacuees are reluctant to return without a truce between the two groups whose gunfights sent them running for their lives.

Local officials and barangay leaders told reporters Thursday no fewer than 2,000 villagers got displaced by the hostilities in Barangays Elian and Dapiawan in Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Maguindanao del Sur, some of them homeless now after one of the two feudal groups set their houses on fire on Tuesday night.

Major Gen. Alex Rillera, commander of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said Thursday the deployment of soldiers in the area forced the two groups to disengage and move away. 

The Police Regional Office-Bangsamoro Autonomous Region had also dispatched peacekeeping teams to Datu Saudi Ampatuan. 

The two groups that figured in a series of gunfights in Barangays Elian and Dapiawan that started Monday are squabbling for control of strategic swaths of lands in both areas, where they reportedly subject hapless villagers to forced taxation. 

Evacuees, among them members of the local Islamic religious community, have confirmed to units of 6th ID guarding their troubled municipality that some of the gunmen in both camps are identified with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. 

Rillera said officials of Army units in Maguindanao del Sur are helping MILF leaders in the province resolve the conflict amicably, via backchannel efforts, to prevent its spill over to other barangays in Datu Saudi Ampatuan.

Evacuees told reporters one of the two groups set on fire a number of houses in Barangay Dapiawan as both sides, armed with M16 and M14 assault rifles, traded shots and fired 40 millimeter grenade projectiles at each other late Tuesday. 

The MILF and state security entities have joint peacekeeping mechanisms established to address security problems in areas where there are Moro communities --- as part of the continuing peace overture between the front and Malacañang.



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