Thursday, November 03, 2011

MILF, Kato clash in Maguindanao town

COTABATO CITY—Members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) clashed with their erstwhile comrades in a Maguindanao town, sending residents fleeing and leaving behind a still undetermined number of casualties, the military said yesterday.

Col. Mayoralgo dela Cruz, head of the First Mechanized Infantry Brigade, said fighting broke out in Mamasapano town about 3 p.m. between members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and members of a breakaway Moro group led by renegade guerrilla leader Ameril Umra Kato.

Dela Cruz said the military was investigating the clash, adding casualties were reported on both sides.

The MILF group was led by a certain Adan, a guerrilla leader, according to Dela Cruz, who quoted Adan’s group as saying it was after a group of militiamen involved in the Nov. 23 Maguindanao massacre when the clash took place.

Abu Misri Mama, speaking for Kato’s Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement (BIFM), said the clash broke out when Banarin Ampatuan, grandson of Andal Ampatuan Sr., tried to reclaim with the help of Adan’s group parcels of land which the Ampatuans had acquired at the height of their power. Ampatuan Sr. is currently in jail facing charges of masterminding the Maguindanao massacre.

Mama said BIFM was just trying to help the real owner of the lands who claimed that these were forcibly taken from him by the Ampatuans.

The MILF, however, denied Adan was involved in the clash. Ghadzali Jaafar, MILF vice chair for political affairs, said an investigation should be conducted “to avoid speculation.”

Reports of vast tracts of land forcibly taken by the Ampatuans at the height of their power should also be investigated, said Jaafar.

At the site of the massacre in Ampatuan town in Maguindanao, men working on preparations for the second anniversary of the massacre dug up a faded media ID card and bullet casings for M-14 and M-16 rifles.

A building and a concrete marker with the names of the massacre victims are being rushed in time for the massacre anniversary on Nov. 23.

Charlie C. SeƱase, Inquirer Mindanao

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