Shelling and air strikes occurred “on an almost daily basis over the past three weeks” in Basilan, the International Committee of the Red Cross reported. File photo
Clashes between government security forces and the Abu Sayyaf have displaced 17,000 villagers in Basilan since the first week of this month, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) reported Friday.
The ICRC said displaced people represented around 3,400 affected families in the areas of Tipo-Tipo, Al-Barka, and Ungkaya Pukan towns. The ICRC, in a statement here, was also conservative by tagging only the Abu Sayyaf as a non-state armed group.
The report said displaced families have sought refuge with their families outside conflict areas and cited that shelling and air strikes occurred “on an almost daily basis over the past three weeks.”
Casualties and injured fighters were reported on both sides, the ICRC added. Although, it did not provide a figure on the number of civilians reportedly injured.
Yann Fridez, head of the ICRC sub-delegation in Mindanao, described the security situation in Basilan as unwarranted.
“We are concerned for the civilians as we expect clashes to continue in the coming weeks,” Fridez said in the statement.
Basilan Gov. Jim Hataman-Saliman wants military operations to continue relentlessly until the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) is flushed out from the province.
“I want to conclude the problem of the radical conservative here in Basilan and I don't care where they come from,” Saliman said.
The ICRC urged all parties involved in the fighting to exercise utmost precaution to minimize the impact or damage to civilian communities.
“We also ask them to spare civilian structures such as hospitals, schools and houses, and facilities that are essential for their daily lives,” Fridez said.
Mayor Darus Lajid of Al-Barka town reported earlier that the ASG fired and destroyed a three-classroom school building early this month as the militants harassed the civilians.
A civilian was also hit by shrapnel believed to be fired from a mortar shell in Tipo-Tipo.
Classes and governance have been affected by ongoing operations.
The ICRC had also distributed relief assistance to the displaced families that complimented the relief assistance provided by the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao-Humanitarian Emergency Action and Response Team (ARMM-HEART) led by regional Gov. Mujiv Hataman.
The ICRC and the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) Basilan distributed Wednesday and Thursday essential household items that included hygiene kits, blankets, towels, jerry cans, mosquito nets and sleeping mats to the displaced people.
Saliman and the provincial government also led last week a relief mission in affected areas, while the ICRC distributed dressing kits and medical supplies, including drugs and anti-tetanus vaccines to enhance the capacity of rural health units in affected towns to treat sick and wounded people.