Monday, July 28, 2008

Hundreds flee as gunmen attack 4 villages in NCotabato

07/28/2008 | 05:32 PM

KIDAPAWAN CITY, Philippines – Four villages in Aleosan and Midsayap towns in North Cotabato have fallen victims to attacks since Sunday afternoon staged by suspected Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels, who were also accused of burning around 30 houses made of light materials.

The attacks triggered the evacuation of some 2,000 villagers from barangays Dualing and Tapudok in Aleosan and Baliki, Rangaban, and Mudseng in Midsayap to the poblacion and barangay Central Bulanan of the same town, reports from the provincial social welfare office said.

Reports from the provincial police office said the rebels first attacked sitio Mampurok, barangay Dualing in Aleosan, around 2 p.m., Sunday.

They then proceeded to sitio Puypuyon, also in Dualing, and burned at least 20 houses owned by settlers, the reports added.

Another group of MILF rebels raided another village in Midsayap and burned houses there Monday morning, a member of the Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Unit (Cafgu) said.

The militiaman, who refused to be identified, claimed in a radio interview that they engaged the rebels in a firefight starting 8:30 a.m.

As of 11:00 a.m., the fighting was still going on, he said.

MILF chief of civil-military affairs Eid Kabalu has denied allegations the rebel leadership sanctioned the attacks.

"We did not sanction the attack, much less the torching of houses in those villages," he said.

The MILF spokesman said the houses were hit by M79 grenade launchers and that because most of these structures were made of light materials, they easily caught fire.

But he could not say who could have fired the projectiles.

None was reported killed or injured in the fighting, according to Midsayap Mayor Manuel Rabara.

Troops from the 40th and 38th Infantry Battalions, Cafgus, and so-called "force multipliers" in five villages in Aleosan and Midsayap were deployed to repulse the suspected rebels.

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