2 dead, 3 wounded in MNLF-MILF clash in Matalam
John Unson (The Philippine Star) - June 16, 2014 - 2:44pm

NORTH COTABATO, Philippines – Two gunmen were killed while three others were wounded in a series of encounters on Sunday in Matalam town between rival forces of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

The hostilities forced dozens of families to evacuate to safer areas for fear of getting trapped in the crossfire.

Captain Tony Bulao, spokesman of the Army’s 602nd Brigade, which has jurisdiction over North Cotabato, said the hostilities broke out when MNLF members, led by Manuh Sandab, were ambushed by MILF guerillas while  the former were on their way to their farm in the southwest of Barangay Manubuan in Matalam.

Evacuees have confirmed that the ambushers belong to a group led by Oscar Martiagal of the MILF’s 108th Base Command.

A farmer belonging to Sandab’s group was killed in the ambush, which also left an MNLF member wounded.

Bulao said the two groups again clashed after an hour when  companions of Sandab from a nearby MNLF farming enclave arrived and engaged Martiagal and his men in a running gunfight.

Bulao said one of Martiagal’s followers was killed while another was wounded in the ensuing encounter, which also left one more MNLF member injured.

Army units in Matalam and surrounding towns, and local officials are trying to work out a ceasefire between the two groups, which both agreed to reposition away from populated areas in Barangay Manubuan.

Bulao said the 602nd Brigade, the police, and the office of North Cotabato Gov. Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza are now initiating a peaceful settlement of the conflict.

Local officials have accused MILF forces of trying to drive away farmers identified with MNLF from the latter's now productive and peaceful farming enclaves in Matalam, recognized as “peace zone”  under the GPH-MNLF peace pact on September 2, 1996.

The government-MNLF peace agreement paved the way for the integration of about 7,000 former guerillas into the Armed Forces and the Philippine National Police, and ushered in the integration of former rebel leaders into the political mainstream. 

ARMED FORCES AND THE PHILIPPINE NATIONAL POLICE BARANGAY MANUBUAN BASE COMMAND BULAO CAPTAIN TONY BULAO EMMYLOU TALI MANUH SANDAB MARTIAGAL MATALAM MNLF MORO ISLAMIC LIBERATION FRONT
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