Saturday, March 14, 2015

‘Military offensive turns Maguindanao into war zone’

From the Philippine Star (Mar 14): ‘Military offensive turns Maguindanao into war zone’

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Philippine Army File photo

The ongoing military operations against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) have practically turned communities in Central Mindanao into a war zone, the People’s Council for National Unity, Reforms and Peace (PCNURP) said yesterday.

The PCNURP pointed out the communities are taking the brunt of the military offensive against the BIFF rebels blamed in the killing of 44 policemen in Mamasapano, Maguindanao last Jan. 25.

PCNURP insisted that all-out war is never the solution to the conflict in Mindanao, as it would displace more people, especially in areas where the armed clashes take place.

PCNURP called for an immediate end to the government offensive that they said has displaced at least 73,000 people since it started on Feb. 25.

The PCNURP is seeking the truth behind the Mamasapano incident, demanding accountability and justice.

The PCNURP noted the allegations of the groups Suara Bangsamoro and KAWAGIB Moro Human Rights Alliance of indiscriminate firing and bombing by government troops.

They pointed out the all-out offensive is supposed to be launched for 10 days but the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) had requested a three-day extension, resulting in more evacuees.

The declaration of an all-out offensive against the BIFF came only a month after villagers in Mamasapano had to evacuate on fears of another firefight with government forces in the area following the Jan. 25 incident.

The group noted the military launched ground and aerial attacks on the towns of Salbo, Pagatin, Mamasapano and Shariff Aguak, on information where the BIFF are hiding.

The PCNURP explained the use of heavy artillery and air support has forced civilians to abandon their homes and evacuate to safer ground.

PCNURP is also calling on government to conduct more humanitarian assistance for those affected by the renewed clashes.

The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) also said the military offensive has displaced thousands of civilians.

“The all-out offensive is now resulting in the evacuation of thousands of the people in the affected areas,” MNLF spokesman Emmanuel Fontanilla said.

The military, on the other hand, has already cleared a portion of Maguindanao of any threats from the BIFF.

This came after government troops succeeded in capturing several camps of the BIFF in the town and outlying areas.

Occupants of the BIFF encampment in Barangay Tina in Shariff Saidona reportedly scampered to different directions as units of the Marines approached.

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