Monday, August 06, 2012

MILF unit clashes with army in Maguindanao, cuts power to some towns

(Updated 11:10 a.m.) - At least six persons have been wounded in sporadic fighting between Army troops and a rogue unit of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in Maguindanao, authorities said Monday.
 
Maguindanao police chief Senior Superintendent Marcelo Pintac said the encounter started at midnight Sunday between the Army and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.
 
"Kagabi mga 12, nagkaroon ng palitan ng putok ang Army at (Bangsamoro) Islamic Freedom Fighter, dating kasapi, breakaway group ng MILF. Ngayon may engkwentro na naman," Pintac said in an interview on dzBB radio.
 
He said the BIFF is allied with the group of rogue MILF commander Umbra Kato, who was linked to attacks in Mindanao in 2008 after the Supreme Court thumbed down a Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain.
 
Pintac cited initial reports reaching him indicating a member of the Army was shot and wounded, but was still alive. He said the soldier was not involved in the encounter.
 
"May tinamaan na isa, dumaan na sundalo, ‘di kasali sa giyera ... Buhay pa naman," he said.
 
Also, Pintac said the rogue unit has cut off power to at least 11 towns, and burned at least two houses.
 
But he said there was no need for augmentation at this time. "Kaya pa rito," he said.
A separate report by dzBB's Glen Juego said the latest attack occurred at 7:30 a.m.
 
The report said the Army is now coordinating with the MILF to de-escalate tension in the affected areas.
 
Philippine Army spokesman Maj. Harold Cabunoc said the MILF is helping provide information on the presence of armed groups.
 
"'Yung MILF, ang ilan nagbigay ng information sa presensya ng armadong grupo na 'di kasama sa kanilang hanay," Cabunoc said on dzBB radio.
 
Cabunoc said the BIFF appeared loyal to Kato. He said their latest information on Kato indicated he could no longer walk but still commands loyalty from his men.
 
For now, he said the Army will remain on "defense mode" and prevent the conflict from escalating.
 
"Defense mode pa tayo. Iwasan natin ma-escalate ang conflict," he said.

Maguindanao towns affected

Col. Mayoralgo dela Cruz, commanding officer of the Army’s 1st Mechanized Brigade, said the simultaneous attacks on Sunday night also included roadside blasts, using rocket-propelled grenades.
 
The fighting resulted to evacuation of at least 131 families from several villages in Datu Unsay town in Maguindanao.
 
Also affected were villagers from towns of Shariff Aguak and Datu Saudi, both in Maguindanao.
 
Col. Roy Galido, commanding officer of the Army’s 40th Infantry Battalion, said BIFF members also harassed their detachment in Barangay Kapinpilan in Midsayap exactly midnight Sunday, pounding its surroundings with anti-tank rocket-propelled grenades and raking bunkers of soldiers with assault rifles.
 
In Pikit town, town chief Inspector Elias Dandan said that a grenade exploded along the highway in Barangay Batulawan, around 12:45 a.m. Monday.
 
Dandan said the grenade was thrown in front of a CAFGU detachment. Four CAFGU operatives and another civilian were wounded during the blast, according to Supiter.
 
Wounded CAFGU were identified as Arman Singson, Rickson Prenal, Jigz Oracoy, and Crisito Neri.
 
Also hurt during the blast was a civilian identified as Mary Jane Singson.
 
Dandan hinted the grenade attack along the highway in Pikit town was connected to the ongoing armed fighting in Maguindanao towns.
 
A villager identified as Tho from Datu Unsay, Maguindanao disclosed to media that since Friday, residents in the area evacuated to safer places after they were warned that the BIFF fighters would launch massive attacks against the Army in Maguindanao and North Cotabato.
 
Tho said the villagers are experiencing difficulty since Monday morning.
 
“We are still on a fast and we have no food to eat because of the fighting,” Tho told media.
 
An Army official in Maguindanao said that the mechanized units in Southwest Mindanao was the first attack of the BIFF, four years after Kato led the assault against Armed Forces and government security installations in the area.
 
To prevent civilians and commuters being hit by bullets and mortars, the Army in Maguindanao set up road blocks along the Maguindanao-Sultan Kudarat highway.
 
Since 2 a.m., today, vehicles were prevented from proceeding to towns of Datu Unsay, Guindulungan, and Datu Saudi Ampatuan where the heavy exchange of gun fires was taking place.
 
Mayoralgo said they were forced to close portions of the national highways criss-crossing the affected towns in Maguindanao due to threats on the safety of motorists and commuters. 

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GMA News Online | August 6, 2012 | Article Link

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