Military probes pregnant woman's death in Maguindanao mortar strike

MANILA, Philippines – The Maguindanao-based 6th Infantry Division (ID) is investigating the death of a pregnant woman hit by a mortar strike over the weekend while they were tending to their rice farm. 

"Kung ano man ang magiging resulta ng (Whatever happens to the) investigation, appropriate sanction will be accorded," said 6th ID spokesman Captain Arvin Encinas. 

The victim was identified as Naano Mangintas, resident of the town of General Salipada K. Pendatun, where military operations against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) have displaced hundreds of residents around the area.

A boy identified as Nene Mohammad, who was helping the pregnant woman in the farm, was injured and sent to the hospital.

Clashes with the local armed group linked with the Islamic State (ISIS) erupted last week. The military halted operations on Friday, June 15, in observance of the Eid'l Fitr, a Muslim holiday marked by feasts. 

The victim was killed as the military resumed operations a day later. 

Maguindanao is adjacent to the province hosting Marawi City – Lanao del Sur – where the Maute Group and other pro-ISIS foreign and local fighters laid siege for 5 months in 2017. (READ: War vs pro-ISIS groups in the Philippines rages on a year after Marawi siege)

Financial support, too

Photos going around on Facebook show the hole that the mortar strike created on the rice field, and the victim wrapped in a blanket being carried by village residents.

Military spokesman Captain Arvin Encinas said 6th ID chief Major General Cirilito Sobejana has sent representatives to condole with the family of the victim and offered financial support. 

"May natanggap po kami na report kaya agaran na nagpautos si General Sobejana ng investigation with the PNP (General Sobejana immediately ordered an investigation as soon as we received the report)," Encinas said. 

"Ganoon pa man, pinapuntahan na agad ni commander ang family to comfort the family at nagpaabot ng pakikiramay at financial support kahit hindi pa natin alam ano talaga nangyari (Pending the results of the investigation, the commander already sent men to comfort the family and provide some financial support)," Encinas said.

Stepped up operations vs pro-ISIS groups

The miitary has intensified operations against ISIS-linked armed groups in Central Mindanao. On Sunday, clashes also erupted against remnants of the Maute Group led by the notorious "Commander Abu Dhar" in the town of Tubaran in Lanao del Sur. 

The clashes in Lanao del Sur erupted days after the military launched on June 14 intelligence operations to hunt down Abu Dhar.

Air strikes were carried out on Sunday, said Colonel Romeo Brawner, spokesman of the 1st Infantry Division operating in the area.

"Mayroon tayong ongoing na intelligence operations para mahabol si Abu Dhar at 'yung Maute remnants. Ito na 'yun (We have an ongoing intelligence operations to pursue Abu Dhar and remnants of the Maute Group. This is the result)," said Brawner. 

Brawner said the air strikes were carried out in the mountainous areas of the town, away from residential areas. – Rappler.com