UN calls for halt of hostilities after mortar shelling in Maguindanao

UN calls for halt of hostilities after mortar shelling in Maguindanao
This satellite photo shows Datu Saudi Ampatuan in Maguindanao province.
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MANILA, Philippines — The United Nations in the Philippines condemned the mortar shelling in Maguindanao province that killed two children as it called for a halt to armed conflicts in the country.

Two girls, aged 10 and seven years old, were killed when a mortar projectile hit at least four houses in Barangay Kitango in Datu Saudi Ampatuan town during the celebration of Eid'l Fitr last Sunday. The incident also left 14 others injured.

In a statement Thursday, the UN in the Philippines called attacks that result in the death of innocent children unacceptable.

“We join the government of the Republic of the Philippines in condemning these attacks, which violate international human rights and humanitarian law. The indiscriminate use of weapons impacting civilian areas must stop,” Gustavo Gonzales, UN resident coordinator in the Philippines, said.

The organization stressed that children should be safe and protected from violence so they could enjoy their childhood and reach their full potential.

“We reiterate the urgent appeal to halt hostilities, protect children in the Philippines and safeguard their well-being,” Oyunsaikhan Dendevnorov, UNICEF Philippines representative, said.

The UN country task force on monitoring grave violations of children’s rights in situations of armed conflict—co-chaired by the UN resident coordinator and UNICEF representative—called on all parties to the conflict in the Philippines to demonstrate their commitment to international humanitarian law and uphold protection and well-being of forcibly displaced children.

It is yet unclear who was behind the shelling, although the military had denied it has any operations in the area at the time of the incident. Local reports have also noted that the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, a group inspired by the Islamis State of Iraq and Syria, operates in parts of the town.

The Moro National Liberation Front and Moro Islamic Liberation Front, former rebel groups that have signed peace agreements with the government, have members in Datu Saudi Ampatuan as well and sometimes clash with each other, according to local reports.

In March, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres called for a ceasefire in conflicts worldwide to aid the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.


The Bangsamoro government said it will conduct a parallel investigation into the mortal shelling through its Ministry of Interior and Local Government, the military and the police.

“He (Chief Minister Ahod ‘Al-Haj Murad’ Ebrahim) has directed the appropriate offices in the regional autonomous government to conduct an impartial investigation to unearth the truth,” Naguib Sinarimbo, MILG minister, said in a release Tuesday.

The Bangsamoro government earlier said that the mortal shelling was “totally inhumane and evil, occurring as it did on what is supposed to be a festive day of Eid-al Fitr.”

The Bangsamoro Human Rights Commission will also conduct a separate investigation. — Gaea Katreena Cabico 



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