GENERAL SANTOS CITY, Philippines – Police tightened security in Maguindanao as violence that resulted in bloodshed and evacuations escalated in at least two towns.
This came following an ambush that left a militiaman dead and three others wounded on a half-finished highway in Datu Odin Sinsuat town on Friday, June 17.
Brigadier General Arthur Cabalona, Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao police chief (BARMM), ordered more checkpoints set up and the deployment of additional police personnel along the main highway in Maguindanao where the ambush – the latest in a string of gun attacks in the province – was carried out.
Police said the victims were in a car when they were attacked at a section of the highway in Datu Odin Sinsuat town.
The town’s police chief, Lieutenant Colonel Assir Balindong, identified the latest fatality as 40-year-old militiaman Thong Kaul of Bagan, Guindulungan town in Maguindanao.
Kaual’s companions – Datu Ali Arsad, Mohammad Talipasan Mama, and Salindatu Mangulamas – were wounded and rushed to a hospital.
Police said all the victims were members of the Citizens’ Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU).
Balindong said the driver lost control of the car in the first volley of fire, and the vehicle crashed into a piece of heavy equipment parked on a section of an ongoing construction project.
The ambush came just days after gunmen shot and killed a man and a woman in the middle of the highway in Barangay Taviran in the same town of Datu Odin Sinsuat on Sunday, June 13.
Authorities remained clueless about the June 13 attack, and the two victims had remained unidentified until their relatives from Cotabato province claimed their remains on Friday.
A day earlier, two people were killed as armed groups exchanged firepower in Sitio Tinidtiban, Barangay Benolen in the same town, but authorities could not say if the subsequent killings had anything to do with an earlier encounter.
The Tinidtiban incident made at least 50 families flee their homes in search of safer grounds, according to Datu Odin Sinsuat disaster response chief Monie Ayao.
Aside from the families from Tinidtiban, there were other evacuees from nearby villages who sought refuge in a government facility in the town proper, Ayao said.
One of the armed groups was composed of members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).
Balindong said the 30-minute clash took place when about 50 armed men raided the MNLF’s Camp Ebrahim Sema.
Police said an M203 grenade launcher, and M16 and M14 rifles were used during the fighting based on the shells found by investigators at the encounter site.
Balindong said investigators suspected that the raid was an offshoot of a rido (clan feud) and land dispute.
In another Maguindanao town, police and military officials, and local leaders tried to douse cold water on the tension between two clashing armed groups, a conflict that turned the village of Midconding in the town of General Salipada K. Pendatun into a virtual ghost town.
Maguindanao police director Colonel Christopher Panapan said police officers, soldiers, and members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) were sent to the village as a peacekeeping force.
A series of clashes there resulted in the evacuation of at least 100 families, and the last one left at least nine people dead on Sunday, June 12.
The Midconding clashes were apparently the result of a political feud between partisan groups associated with Pendatun town Mayor Bimbo Pendatun Ali and the village chief, Datu Mama Abdul.
Ali and Abdul figured in a bitter dispute when the Midconding barangay chairman challenged Mayor Ali’s reelection bid in the May elections. Abdul lost the mayoral race. – Rappler.com