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Thousands of Maranaws displaced by Lanao Sur firefights

 • 21:05 PM Thu Feb 25, 2016
John Unson
Volunteers from the Philippine Muslim Teachers College prepare relief supplies for distribution to evacuees from conflict-stricken Lanao del Sur villages. (John Unson)

LANAO DEL SUR -- Relief workers are scrambling to deliver food to no fewer than 10,000 villagers dislocated by the spate of hostilities that rocked two Lanao del Sur towns in the past six days.Jennie Tamano, Lanao del Sur provincial information officer, said in Butig town alone thousands have been displaced by encounters between religious extremists and Army combatants that exacted fatalities on both sides.Private organizations, among them the Philippine Muslim Teachers College (PMTC), have started their relief missions too, in support of the provincial government’s effort to address the needs of evacuees.The PMTC now has packed relief supplies ready for dispersal to displaced Butig residents.The skirmishes in Butig erupted when extremists, claiming allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, attacked an Army detachment in one of the barangays there last weekend, precipitating three days of sporadic clashes that sent villagers fleeing for their lives.Tamano said Lanao del Sur Gov. Mamintal Adiong, Jr. has created a crisis management committee, immediately after the onset of the Butig hostilities, to focus on the plight of affected villagers.The provincial government is now providing the evacuees with food and other relief provisions.Tamano, citing a report from the Butig Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council, said the skirmishes in the municipality drove 7,800 villagers away from their homes.Some of the evacuees had sought refuge in houses of relatives in Lanao del Sur’s nearby Masiu, Lumbayanague and Poona Bayabao towns.The crisis committee Adiong organized is also now trying to contain further displacement of villagers in Bubong-Kadapaan area in Balindong town, where soldiers and ISIS-inspired gunmen traded shots last Tuesday.The firefights in Balindong erupted when ISIS-inspired gunmen ambushed soldiers escorting a column of tanks and combat vehicles en route to Marawi City to augment the armor assets of soldiers fighting extremists in Butig.A soldier was killed in the ensuing encounter, which caused panic among villagers in surrounding peasant enclaves.Hundreds of families were forced to relocate to safer areas for fear of getting trapped in the crossfire.Tamano said the office of Adiong is now attending to the Balindong residents affected by the hostilities.

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