Hundreds of families displaced, 2 civilians killed, 6 others hurt in Pikit clashes

PIKIT, North Cotabato (MindaNews/15 November) – Two civilians were killed and three others were wounded in an artillery bombardment early Friday in Barangay Kabasalan here forcing at least 1,000 families to flee their homes.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development in Pikit identified the fatalities as Raihana Akmad,8, and Mamasatanto, 48.

The wounded individuals were identified as Laila Ayob, 13, Kamaruddin Akmad, 12, and Mustapha Akmad, 40.

The evacuees meanwhile fled to different evacuation sites in North Cotabato.

The evacuees called for a stop to indiscriminate firing and the use of artillery saying they were also being hit.

Pinky Labas, a health worker in Kabasalan echoed the plea, saying the shelling had affected the civilians.

At the school in Balibet in Barangay Bulol, MindaNews saw the arrival of evacuees from morning to afternoon on Friday. Some 500 families came and more were expected to arrive in the afternoon.

Sammy Makainas, DSWD-Pikit field officer said that when they went to Kabasalan the residents told them they were also planning to evacuate to Balibet if the situation got worse.

DSWD personnel in Pikit said the residents were apprehensive the conflict would escalate and they might be hit by artillery fire.

MindaNews also witnessed the arrival of armed men at the evacuation site in Bulol. They introduced themselves as members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front National Guard, and said they just wanted to check on the situation of their relatives.

According to the 6th Infantry Division, Army troops and Maguindanao police launched a joint operation against the BIFF along the Pulangi River in Shariff Saydona town, Maguindanao. The area lies near the town’s boundary with Pikit.

The BIFF admitted they lost one of their fighters during the operation. But the group claimed that it was the military’s howitzer that hit Kabasalan.

Col. Dickson Hermoso, 6ID information chief said it was also possible that “miscalculated” mortar fire from the BIFF hit the community. He said they were investigating the incident and the reported casualties.

Three more civilians were wounded when the BIFF attacked on Friday night a detachment of the military and Civilian Volunteers Organization in Barangay Silik.

The military identified the victims as Rosalyn Sahid, 50; Raul Sahid, 54; and Joseph Pineda, 5.

The rebels also attacked a detachment in Barangay Paidu Pulangi, near Pikit’s border with Shariff Saydona town in Maguindanao.

The BIFF admitted launching the attacks.

Asked if he knew that civilians were hit, BIFF spokesperson Abu Misry Mama said civilians should live far from military camps since they would attack anytime. (Ferdinandh B. Cabrera/MindaNews)