Villagers in Talitay town flee as rival rebel groups clash
John Unson (The Philippine Star) - October 11, 2013 - 11:49am

MAGUINDANAO, Philippines - The fatal ambush  last Thursday of three bodyguards of the second-termer mayor of Talitay town sparked hostilities between two rival Moro gurerilla groups, forcing villagers to safer areas.

Local officials said the hostilities between the feuding forces of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front was triggered by an ambush past 7 a.m. Thursday of the Toyota pick-up truck of Talitay Mayor Montasir Sabal, which left three of his security escorts dead and two others wounded.

The wounded ambush victims, Gadungan, Tatuan and Bobby Masulot, who sustained gunshot wounds in different parts of their bodies, are now confined at a hospital in Cotabato City.

Talitay Vice-Mayor Allan Sabal, a senior member of the municipal peace and order council, have tagged members of the MILF’s 105th Base Command, led by Hadji Buisan Haron, as responsible for the ambush.

Haron and the incumbent Talitay mayor, who is presently performing the Islamic Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia, are embroiled in a political dispute that began during the recent campaign period.

"They must have assumed that the mayor was also inside the vehicle, which they shot with their assault rifles," Sabal said.

Sabal said relatives of the mayor’s three slain security men, among them active members of the MILF’s 106th Base Command, were to retrieve their cadavers from the spot where they were attacked, but Haron and his men opened fire, provoking a running firefight.

“They waited at the scene, (ready to) escalate the (hostilities),” Sabal said.

Von Al-Haq, the spokesman of the MILF’s military wing, the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces, had told Catholic station dxMS in Cotabato City that they exerting efforts to resolve the dispute between the two guerrilla groups.

The running gunfights between the rival MILF forces forced more than a thousand families to evacuate to neutral areas for fear of getting trapped in the crossfire.

The conflict between the two MILF groups in Talitay is just one of the dozens of clan wars in Central Mindanao involving active members of the rebel group.

About 90 percent of the hostilities that rocked far-flung areas covered by the 1997 government-MILF General Agreement on Cessation of Hostilities in the past two years involved rival rebel factions locked in territorial disputes and political differences. 

BANGSAMORO ISLAMIC ARMED FORCES BASE COMMAND CENTRAL MINDANAO CESSATION OF HOSTILITIES COTABATO CITY GENERAL AGREEMENT HADJI BUISAN HARON HARON ISLAMIC HAJJ SABAL TALITAY
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