4 killed, 371 families flee in clashes in Maguindanao

DATU PIANG, Maguindanao (MindaNews/9 August) – Four people were killed while 371 families have been reported to have fled their homes during intense firefights between a Moro Islamic Liberation Front commander and one of the lieutenants of rogue Commander Ustadz Amerial Umra Kato since dawn today.

Reports said clashes in Barangay Liong were still ongoing as of press time.

The clashes were between Commander Adzmie, head of the MILF’s 106th Base Command, and Commander Abonawas, of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, a group established by rogue Commander Ustadz Ameril Umra Kato.

The clashes reportedly stemmed from a long-standing land conflict between Commander Adzmie and Commander Abonawas.

Khadaffy Sambunutan, one of the evacuees, said they left their homes Monday evening after sensing the tense situation in the area. He said they are afraid they will be hit in the crossfire.

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Residents sought refuge under the elevated school buildings of Gumbay Elementary School in the poblacion area.

Until noon today, residents were still bringing out household items and farm animals that they can bring with them as they flee.

BIFF spokesman Abumissry Mama said they have killed three from the other side. He claimed they carted away high-caliber firearms, including two M-60 machine guns, a long-range caliber .50 Barett sniper rifle and an M-14 rifle.

Sources said the BIFF suffered one casualty, too.

The MILF has yet to comment on the clashes as Ghadzali Jaafar, vice chair for political affairs, said they don’t have enough information from the ground yet.

But local government officials have lamented that their constituents are still recovering from the 2008 war.

“We’re appealing to both parties to end the conflict. Let’s take into consideration the people here who are still recovering from the war in 2008. Have mercy on the people,” appealed Musib Tan, municipal administrator. He expressed confidence the MILF can help in settling the dispute.

As supporters of both commanders came to the rescue, the Army’s 45th Infantry Battalion, meanwhile, sent in soldiers and tanks to prevent the warring parties from approaching populated areas.

Aside from Liong, the firefights have spilled into the neighboring barangays of Balanaken and Alonganen. (Ferdinandh B. Cabrera / MindaNews)