MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews / 20 June) – Close to 12,000 individuals have fled their homes in Lanao del Sur as the military offensive against Islamic State-inspired militants entered its fourth day on Wednesday, June 20.
As of Wednesday noon, the number of evacuees had reached 2,325 families or 11,605 individuals from the towns of Tubaran and Pagayawan, a report from the Provincial Risk Reduction and Management Office said.
Most of the evacuees (1,011 families or 6,550 individuals) came from 11 barangays in Tubaran, and the rest (1,314 families or 5,055 individuals) from five barangays in Pagayawan affected by the hostilities.
Close to 9,000 evacuees are home-based or living with their relatives, the report added.
On Monday, Col. Romeo Brawner Jr., Joint Task Force Ranao Deputy Commander, said the firefight in Tubaran on Sunday was “part of the fulfillment of the promise of the AFP to go after the remnants of the Maute-ISIS group.”
Brawner was referring to the group that attacked Marawi City on May 23 last year and engaged government forces in a give-month siege that destroyed the city’s main commercial area.”
“This was the result of months-long intelligence operations as well as the cooperation of the local government and the citizens,” Brawner said.
He added they are still verifying reports that five members of the group led by by Owayda Benito Marohombsar aka Abu Dar have been killed.
He assured the hostilities “will not extend beyond the mountainous areas of Tubaran and Pagayawan.”
In a statement on Tuesday, Gov. Bedjoria Soraya Alonto Adiong said the fighting escalated on Sunday after the barangay chair of Madaganding, Tubaran was shot dead for refusing the militants to enter the area shortly after the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections.
Adiong asked the people “to remain calm and alert, and to pray for everyone’s safety. We also want to assure everyone that the provincial government is doing everything to provide relief and all other needs of all affected and IDPs (internally displaced persons).”
“We are asking the security sector to do all proportionate means to ensure the safety of the public and the preservation of their properties. We hope and pray for this armed conflict not to escalate to other nearby municipalities,” she said. (MindaNews)