Saturday, July 6, 2013

5,000 flee as clashes break out between BIFF, Army 3 days before Ramadan

From InterAksyon (Jul 6): 5,000 flee as clashes break out between BIFF, Army 3 days before Ramadan

An old man carries a fighting cock as he and other residents flee clashes between the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighter and military in Paidu Pulangi, Pikit, North Cotabato. (photo by Ferds Ballentes,

Clashes broke out Saturday between the military and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in North Cotabato and Maguindanao, sending civilians fleeing their homes three days before the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

The fighting is continuing as of this posting and there have been reports of deaths and injuries on both sides, including two Army Special Forces troops reportedly killed in the first clash in Sitio Mapagkaya, Barangay Paidu Palangit, Pikit, North Cotabato at 11 a.m.

The unit the two fatalities belong to is still reportedly pinned down by sniper fire from the rebels, who belong to a faction that broke away from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

However, Colonel Dicson Hermoso, spokesman of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said they are still confirming the information.

The initial clash was followed by two more gun battles in Maguindanao, at Sitio Dam, Barangay Damablas in Datu Piang, which is just across the river from Pikit, and Barangay Dasawao, Shariff Saydona Mustapha.

There have also been reports of fighting in Guindulungan town, also in Maguindanao.

At least 5,000 people have fled their homes to avoid being caught in the crossfire.

The 6th ID, the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao police office and the MILF contingent to the Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities are coordinating efforts to control the hostilities from escalating and spreading.

General Romeo Gapuz, 6th ID commander, accused the BIFF of seeking to sabotage peace talks between the government and MILF.

Maguindanao Governor Esmael Mangudadatu condemned the violence while ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman appealed to both sides to respect the approach of Ramadan.

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