4 killed in MILF-PNP clash in Lanao Sur

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COTABATO CITY (MindaNews / 4 Apr) – Amid promises to end the war in the new Bangsamoro entity, a fresh clash in Madamba, Lanao del Sur involving Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) members and police commando forces has resulted to heavy casualties on both sides.

Col. Madzgani Mukaram, provincial police commander of Lanao del Sur said, said a law enforcement operation was conducted dawn today against murder suspects in Barangay Ilian of the said town.

“We brought five warrants of arrest for the suspects who killed a village official who just won last barangay election but we ended in heavy fighting,” Mukaram said.

Four of the suspects were killed after resisting arrest. Among them was Zanadin Macalatas Ameril, the main subject of the warrant. Two of his buddies who are also in the charge list for murder were killed – Usop Abdulaziz and Alican Usman.

The fourth fatality is identified as Casara Macalatas.

According to Mukaram, Ameril was charged for killing his political rival after he lost in the recent Barangay election in July 2018. The victim was Edu Masalama of Barangay Tabaran.

High-powered firearms consisting of M-203 rifle and two M-16 rifles and ammunition were reportedly recovered by combined police teams in the battle area.

Mukaram said while the troops were about to leave the area, a number of heavily armed relatives of the suspects blocked their way, including the police car, and pounded the policemen with grenade launchers and automatic fires.

He said an extended firefight ensued, starting around 1 a.m. until 10 a.m., resulting in the wounding of eight policemen and one still missing.

“They scattered and defended solidly despite wounds inflicted but one of my men was missing after they managed to convene in the town police station,” Mukaram told MindaNews.

A police car left in the area was burned by the rebels, he said.

Von Al Haq, the military chief of the MILF, confirmed that the armed men the policemen engaged, including those killed, were their members and the area is a recognized MILF camp headed by Kumander Abu Haniff.

He said that the Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities of both parties are conducting investigation on the matter. We want to know if there was coordination made,” Al Haq noted.

But Mukaram insist that there is no need for coordination since the area is not an MILF recognized camp.

Tension in the area remains high at this moment amid the intervention of local leaders, including traditional sultans, calling for ceasefire.

Troops from the Army’s 103rd Infantry Brigade under Brig. Romeo Brawner Jr. has deployed additional forces.

“We are willing to assist our police force especially in the rescue of missing comrade,” Brawner said.

The Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction office of Lanao del Sur said the villages of Tubaran and Ilian are affected.

“We are still monitoring reports of the total number of affected civilians from the conflict zone,” according to Tong Pacasum, of the disaster officer of the province.

Ahead of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) ratification, interim Chief Minister Ahod Balawag Ebrahim (aka MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim), has vowed to end the war against the government during the historical visit last year of top military commanders in the main rebel camp, Camp Darapanan in Maguindanao, headed by then Armed Forces Chief Carlito Galvez.

Galvez, who is now the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, responded to Murad’s call to officially end the war between MILF and the government.

Among the challenge now for the post-peace process activities after the ratification of the Bangsamoro organic law and the installation of the new government is the decommissioning of the thousands of weapons under the control of the MILF.

This has been agreed to take place in the normalization stage of the peace process, wherein rebel members will transition to common civilians or citizens in the Bangsamoro region. (Ferdinandh Cabrera / MindaNews)

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