Philippines: 2 Civilians Killed, 7 Wounded in Muslim Rebel Attack

Jeoffrey Maitem
Cotabato City, Philippines
171205-PH-muslim-620.jpg Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters members display weapons for photographers at their camp in the southern Philippine province of Maguindanao, Feb. 10, 2011.

A faction of the Philippines’ largest Muslim rebel group killed at least two villagers and wounded seven others when they attacked a small military outpost in the southern Philippines over the weekend, police said Tuesday.

Officials said gunmen belonging to the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) randomly opened fire at civilian houses using rifles and rocket-propelled grenades after attacking a military detachment in Shariff Aguak town in Maguindanao province, about 1,600 km (1,000 miles) south of Manila.

Senior Superintendent Agustin Tello, the local police chief, identified the slain civilians as Unti Kamana, 60, and his grandson, Mohammad. Among those wounded were four children, he said.

“There’s an ongoing military operation right now. More than 30 families have fled because of the incident,” Tello told BenarNews. He did not elaborate.

Abu Misri Mama, spokesman for the BIFF, confirmed the offensive, but denied his group was targeting civilians.

“We only attack the military not civilians,” Mama told BenarNews.

Military officials could not be reached for comment about whether soldiers were injured in the attack.

Meanwhile, town Mayor Marop Ampatuan denounced the attack.

“I am appealing to the rebels to spare the civilians,” Ampatuan told a local radio station.

Maj. Gen. Arnel dela Vega, chief of the Philippine Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said the BIFF’s latest attack was meant to avenge the deaths of more than 30 rebels killed in offensives two months ago.

The BIFF, with hundreds of fighters, split from the 10,000-member Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in 2008. In 2014, the larger rebel group signed a peace deal with Manila in exchange for expanded autonomy.

The BIFF had vowed to push with the separatist fight, attracting younger, more hardline members of the MILF. In June, gunmen stormed the village of Malagakit in nearby North Cotabato province and took more than 30 people, including school children, as hostages. The hostages were later released.

Red Cross airs concerns

As a result of the armed clashes in Maguindanao province, thousands of people have also been displaced from their homes, according to Tomoko Matsuzawa, head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

Matsuzawa told reporters on Monday that about 11,600 people have been deprived of basic daily necessities as the military is locked in battles with the BIFF and another group of IS-linked militants led by Abu Turaipe in five remote villages in Maguindanao.

He said ICRC was concerned for the residents who fled their homes to escape gun battles in the area.

“While the attention over the recent months has been mostly focused on the Marawi conflict, several communities in Maguindanao have also been seriously affected by armed clashes,” he said. “We remain concerned about their plight as they have been displaced for more than three months.”

The MILF, showing its sincerity in the peace talks, launched its own campaign against BIFF militants.

Officials said almost 50 people had been killed in fighting between the two sides since August this year.

Mark Navales in Cotabato City contributed to this report.


Add your comment by filling out the form below in plain text. Comments are approved by a moderator and can be edited in accordance with RFAs Terms of Use. Comments will not appear in real time. RFA is not responsible for the content of the postings. Please, be respectful of others' point of view and stick to the facts.