A father and his infant daughter were killed and three others, including two children, were wounded during a weekend attack in the southern Philippines that police and military officials on Monday blamed on militants linked to the Islamic State (IS).
Superintendent Gilbert Tuzon, the local police chief, alleged that Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) fighters opened fire on a cluster of wooden homes in the southern town of Midsayap on Sunday, killing Musa Sayang and his 7-month-old daughter Malaiha.
The attackers left the scene minutes before responding police commandos arrived, Tuzon said.
He said three relatives of the victims, Jehan Buacan, 18, Melanie Buacan, 13, and Princess Kusa, 10, were wounded in the attack. Police on Monday said their injuries were not life-threatening.
“The victims were having their dinner inside their house when gunmen arrived and fired their weapons toward them,” Tuzon said.
Regional police spokesman Chief Inspector Aldrin Gonzales told BenarNews officials believe the attack could be in retaliation for police foiling a BIFF bomb attack on a bridge linking the provinces of Maguindanao and North Cotabato.
He said he is not sure why civilians were targeted.
“Aside from militants as suspects, we are also checking the possibility of clan war or local elections as the motive,” he said.
Clan wars or blood feuds, commonly called “rido” are common in the south, especially among village officials. Hostilities could last for decades until a peace pact is reached between the protagonists, usually through mediation by religious leaders and the payment of “blood money.”
Lt. Col. Angelo Lutera, commander of 34th Infantry Battalion, said his group received information from civilians that members of BIFF, a splinter group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), planted a homemade bomb at the bridge in the village of Olandag in Midsayap town on Friday. Soldiers defused the bomb fashioned from artillery ammunition.
Earlier that day, soldiers captured five BIFF fighters during a raid on their hideout. In addition, air, ground and artillery assaults last week left at least 13 guerrillas dead in the province of Maguindanao.
BIFF, with hundreds of fighters, split from the 10,000-member MILF in 2008, after the larger group dropped its bid for full independence and began peace talks with Manila to settle for an expanded autonomy.
The government and MILF signed a peace deal in 2014. Since then, the separatist group has been helping the military go after IS-linked groups, including BIFF, in the south.
While BIFF has pledged its allegiance to the Islamic State, it did not send fighters to the southern city of Marawi last year, where the military was engaged in five months of fighting with IS-linked groups, leaving 1,200, mostly militants, dead.