Thousands displaced as rival MILF groups clash in Maguindanao PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, 13 October 2013 13:46

The police and military on Saturday deployed 200 more uniformed operatives in Talitay town in Maguindanao to pacify two rival Moro rebel groups locked in recurring encounters since Thursday.

Local officials said the two groups thrice fought on Friday in a series of encounters that left three guerillas dead and three others wounded.

The hostilities forced hundreds more of ethnic Maguindanaon families to evacuate to neutral grounds. More than a thousand families were dislocated in their first encounter just before noontime Thursday.

The skirmishes between the rival groups in the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) started at about 8:00 a.m. Thursday with the fatal ambush of three security escorts of Talitay Mayor Montasir Sabal.

The vice-mayor of Talitay, Allan Sabal, said the victims were on board the mayor’s Toyota pick-up truck which the rebels, led by Buisan Haron of the MILF’s 105th Base Command, shot with assault rifles, killing three of its passengers on the spot.

Vice-Mayor Sabal said the ambushers must have thought the mayor, who is presently in Mecca, Saudi Arabia performing the obligatory Islamic Hajj, was also inside the vehicle.

The ambushers also shot the relatives of the mayor’s slain security men when they approached to retrieve the cadavers of the victims, provoking another firefight.

Relatives of the victims, mostly active members of the MILF’s 106th Base Command, joined the foray and engaged Buisan’s group in a three-hour running firefight.

Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu directed Thursday night the provincial police director, Senior Supt.Rudelio Jocson, to initially deploy three platoons of policemen in between the two feuding groups while the government-MILF ceasefire committee is trying to reposition them away from populated areas in Talitay.

The provincial peace and order council (PPOC) had also asked the joint ceasefire committee, the police and the military to immediately pacify the two factions to prevent the conflict from affecting the October 28 barangay elections in the area.

Provincial Board Member Bobby Katambak told Daily Zamboanga Times Saturday Mangudadatu had also asked the GPH-MILF ceasefire committee to help the provincial office of the Commission on Elections formulate measures meant to ensure peaceful barangay elections in Talitay.

“The effort of the provincial governor is parallel with the conflict resolution protocols bilaterally agreed by the GPH and MILF peace panels” Katambak said.

Katambak said Mangudadatu had also enlisted the help of local Muslim clerics in resolving the trouble amicably.

The hostilities had caused the closure of the Comelec office in Talitay since Thursday, preventing aspirants for barangay positions to file their certificates of candidacy.

“Gov. Mangudadatu was saddened by this development. His office and the provincial police are now initiating means of defusing the tension in the area in coordination with the GPH-MILF ceasefire committee through the Army’s 603rd Brigade,” Katambak said.

Col. Noli Orense, commander of the Army’s 603rd Brigade, which has jurisdiction over Talitay and surrounding towns, said his emissaries have asked the relatives of the ambush victims to refrain from retaliating.

“We want them to leave everything to the police and just let the police file criminal charges against the culprits,” Orense said.

Orense said soldiers from the 68th Infantry Battalion are now deployed in strategic spots in Talitay to prevent the feuding MILF forces from getting close to each other.