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Maguindanao clashes displace villagers

Rebel MILF factions reportedly fighting over land dispute as ceasefire crumbles

Maguindanao clashes displace villagers
A woman builds a makeshift shelter away from the fighting in her village
Romy Elusfa, Pikit, Cotabato

August 10, 2011

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Residents of three villages in the town of Datu Piang in the southern province of Maguindanao yesterday fled their homes as armed clashes between Moro rebel factions erupted, according to a ceasefire watchdog group. Bantay Ceasefire, an independent body monitoring the implementation of a ceasefire agreement between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), reported that 250 families had already left their homes. Butch Gilman, coordinator of Bantay Ceasefire in North Cotabato, said the armed encounter sent residents of Balanaken, Liong and Alonganen villages fleeing to the town center. Mashod Salik, a Bantay Ceasefire volunteer from Datu Piang, said the organization is still completing the list of evacuees. "Most likely, all civilian residents of the three villages have already vacated their homes," he said. Gilman said the clashes erupted Tuesday morning. Army major general Rey Ardo said if the MILF fails to resolve the conflict, the military will be forced to bring in troops to secure the villages. MILF spokesman Von Al Haq said he received reports that at least one person was killed and two others were wounded in the clashes. Villagers, however, reported that at least six armed fighters under a commander identified only as Adzmi were killed in the fighting yesterday, while seven others were wounded. The fighting came less than a week after President Benigno Aquino met with MILF chief Al Haj Murad Ebrahim in Japan to discuss the peace process in Mindanao. Lawyer Marvic Leonen, head of the government peace panel, said his team is monitoring the fighting in Maguindanao. "We are watching very carefully and very intently as to how the MILF is dealing with the [splinter] group," he said. Related reports: Church criticizes Aquino, rebel talks Bishop appeals for end to armed clashes

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