A civilian was killed during the ambush. Some 265 families fled their homes.
But Colonel Alex Dicang, deputy brigade commander of the Army’s 102 Infantry Brigade here, said “50 percent of the displaced families” have already returned to their homes as “situation on the ground has returned to normal.”
Initial media reports echoed claims by the police that some Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) fighters initiated the attack in Lakiki, allegedly a “satellite camp” of the MILF. The report said four policemen, including an officer, were wounded as they were serving a warrant of arrest to the MILF.
But Pastor Rey Montecillo, a member of the grassroots peace monitor, Bantay Ceasefire, that sent a team to Lakiki, said, “based on the accounts of the people in the community and ocular inspection of the encounter site, it can be said that it was the police who attacked the Moro rebels first.”
The group also noted that evacuees were left to fend for themselves. A hundred and sixty five families from Lakiki and 100 others from nearby barangay Kabunan fled their homes.
Witnesses who are mostly barangay officials alleged it was the police, who were positioned on a high ground, who fired at the MILF fighters who numbered about 40.
The firefight lasted from 8 a.m. until 12 noon.
The lone civilian casualty, Hadja Noraida Langgal, could not have been caught in the crossfire, witnesses said, as her house was not situated in the line of fire.
“It was also initially established that the police did not coordinate their mission with barangay officials,” Dicang said.
“The others have opted to stay with their relatives in nearby urban centers,” Dicang said when asked on the status of the remaining displaced families.
“We are confident that the rest will return to their barangay soon,” Dicang said.
In Sibuco, Mayor Norbi Edding said he is exerting peaceful efforts for the return of the villagers who recently deserted their homes in the villages of Lakiki and Kabunan.
Edding said he is doing back channel negotiation with the commanders of the MILF group in Lakiki so that the villagers could return to their respective homes. (Antonio M. Manaytay/MindaNews contributor)