Days after the bombing, hostilities escalated in nearby areas, especially in Datu Junsay town, also in Maguindanao, that resulted to the evacuation of thousands of residents.
Residents fear of more reprisals from both sides — the government troops and the Moro rebels.
“We evacuated to safer grounds because we don’t want to be hit in the crossfire. But we left our farms there, our only source of living,” said one of the residents in an interview over DXMS in Cotabato City.
Engineer Norie Unas, spokesman of the Maguindanao provincial government, said the LGU officials’ pouring of support for the hunt for the two commanders identified as Said Pakiladatu and Amiril Kato Ombra was a show of unity with the governor, believed to be the real target of the June 23 bombing.
Five of those killed were security escorts of Ampatuan who were aboard a vehicle severely hit by the powerful bomb.
Ampatuan’s vehicle was just a few meters away from the damaged car.
The MILF, through its spokesperson Eid Kabalu, denied any involvement in the bombing although it admitted that Pakiladatu and Ombra were their members.
Kabalu said there is no evidence yet that would directly link the two commanders to the atrocity.