Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) reported more than 1,000 families fled for their lives after mortar shelling hit villages in Datu Saudi Ampatuan town, Maguindanao province days before the end of Ramadan.
According to BARMM’s Ministry of Social Welfare and Development, 1,282 families who are equivalent to 6,410 residents from the barangays of Daplawan, Elian, and Kitango in Datu Saudi Ampatuan, left their communities and sought safety in neighboring areas.
Reports said the mortar shelling started after suspected armed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) members attacked three Army detachments in the villages of Elian, Madia, and Salbu around 9 p.m. on May 21. The encounter lasted at least three hours.
The report added mortar shelling started the following day at Sitio Bayog in Daplawan, where a 70-year-old man was hit and killed.
Two days later, another round of mortar shelling began and killed two children at Sitio Amai Zailon in Kitango while Muslims were praying during Eid al-Fitr.
Mortar shelling started in Maguindanao
Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez Jr., on Tuesday, ordered an impartial investigation on the 81mm mortar explosion that took the life of two children.
“We are saddened by what transpired on Sunday. We would like to assure our Moro brothers and sisters that we shall leave no stone unturned as we seek justice for the victims,” Galvez said.
“I would like to appeal to the residents who have been affected by the ongoing armed conflict, as well as the leadership of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) for calmness and sobriety as authorities conduct an investigation on the incident,” he added.
Regional interior and local government minister Naguib Sinarimbo on Monday said he met with Maj. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, commander of the military’s Western Mindanao Command, and Maj. Gen. Diosdado Carreon, 6th Infantry Division commander.
“[We intend] to get to the bottom of this incident and avoid making hasty conclusions pending the completion of the investigations,” Sinarimbo said.
“We will let the ‘bayanihan’ spirit work to give justice to the victims and ensure protection of the people from harm,” Sobejana said.
In 2014, the government and the MILF signed a peace agreement. The MILF now controls the BARMM, and as part of the deal, MILF fighters surrendered their weapons to the government.