MILF infighting disrupts Ramadhan; 300 families in Maguindanao flee

COTABATO CITY (MindaNews/ 26 July) – The observance of Ramadhan, the holy month of fasting for Muslims, has been disrupted by fierce clashes among members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), officials said yesterday.


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At least 360 families in the towns of Sultan sa Barongis and Rajah Buayan in Maguindanao have reportedly fled to evacuation centers due to the clashes that erupted since Monday. A stray bullet has injured a 14 year-old girl.

Datu Zamzamin Ampatuan, chairman of Rajah Buayan’s Association of Barangay Captains, raised deep concerns on Wednesday following the large troop reinforcement from the warring MILF groups that forced residents to flee to safer grounds to avoid getting caught in the crossfire.

Around 80 armed men from Mamasapano town, serving as reinforcement, was seen heading towards the conflict zone, he said.

Ampatuan, former undersecretary at the Department of Energy, urged the government, the MILF, and the International Monitoring Team to step in and end the conflict.

He also requested the military to set up a “buffer zone” to protect the civilians.

“ The conflict started last Monday, we heard sporadic gunfires. Sadly, this happened despite our observance of Ramadhan. We call on the MILF leadership to settle the dispute,” Ampatuan said.

In a statement yesterday, Brigadier General Leo Cresente Ferrer, senior military adviser to the government peace panel, also urged the MILF leadership to impose discipline among its forces and peacefully resolve infightings instigated by “ridos” or clan wars among its base commands.

Ferrer made the call in the midst of news of positive developments on the peace table that points to a possible signing of a peace agreement between the two parties, as well as in deference to the celebration of the holy month of Ramadhan.

“We call on the MILF to show their collective sincerity and commitment to the peace process especially now that we are on the homestretch of the negotiations. It is high time that the MILF resolves peacefully these infightings, ‘ridos’ or clan wars within its ranks,” Ferrer said.

Reports said that Kumander Kubota of the MILF 105th base command and Kumanders Basco and Morris of the MILF 106th base command have been intensely fighting along with their respective followers in the last three days.

The skirmishes among the MILF commanders were reportedly triggered by a land dispute involving a 20-hectare land in Sitio Kinalinan,
Barangay Tukanakuden in Sultan sa Barongis town.

The clashes have escalated in nearby Barangay Kulambog where reinforcements from the 105th base command were blocked by their nemeses.

Col. Mayoralgo dela Cruz, commanding officer of the Army’s 1st Mechanized Brigade, said the firefights have displaced hundreds of families from Barangays Gadungan, Kulambog and Tukanakuden in Sultan sa Barongis. Other evacuees fled to the nearby village of Caridad in Lambayong, Sultan Kudarat.

“ We can only monitor the situation because that is an internal conflict between the MILF. What we do now is to prevent the escalation of the gun battle to [populated] areas to ensure the safety of civilians,” dela Cruz said.

The Integrated Provincial Health Office, headed by Dr. Tahir Sulaik,has deployed an emergency response team to the municipal health office in Sultan sa Barongis to look of the welfare of the evacuees.

At around 2pm on Wednesday, as the intense gun battle had just started, fourteen year-old Diana Kanapia was hit in her right thigh by a stray bullet. She was immediately rushed to the provincial hospital in Shariff Aguak town.

Earlier on Wednesday, representatives from local and international peace monitors and the GPH-MILF Joint Coordinating Committees on the Cessation of Hostilities arrived in the area but failed to pacify the situation.

The MILF Central Committee has yet to release a statement about the squabble of their troops.(Ferdinandh Cabrera/MindaNews)

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