Thousands flee as MILF factions clash in North Cotabato
(Philstar.com) - January 8, 2016 - 12:43am

NORTH COTABATO, Philippines – At least 1,530 villagers were displaced when rival factions in the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) clashed on Thursday in Barangay Talitay in Pikit town southeast of North Cotabato.

The hostilities erupted when MILF’s Commander Bhutto and his men raided the villages controlled by his adversaries Mokamad Andoy and Ricky Hussain.

Andoy and Hussain, also both identified with the MILF, have dozens of followers armed with assault rifles and shoulder-fire grenade launchers.

Police investigators are yet to determine if the hostilities could be related to the fatal ambush in the municipality early this week of the influential Pexon Mangansakan, chairman of Barangay Silik.

Barangay Silik is an agricultural enclave in Pikit, home to mixed Muslim and Christian settlers.

Mangansakan, an elder of Pikit Vice Mayor Don Mangansakan, has relatives in the MILF. The vice mayor, now in his third term, is aspiring for Pikit’s mayoral post during the May local polls.

Senior Inspector Sindatu Karim, chief of the Pikit municipal police, said local officials have been trying since late Thursday to disengage the two groups to prevent escalation of hostilities and displacement of more villagers.

The local government unit’s social welfare office confirmed on Friday that 1,530 villagers were displaced by Thursday’s firefights in Barangay Talitay.

Local officials have urged the joint ceasefire committee of the MILF and the government to intervene.

The joint ceasefire committee, comprised of representatives from the MILF, the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces, helps address security concerns in potential flashpoint areas in the south.

ANDOY AND HUSSAIN BARANGAY SILIK BARANGAY TALITAY COMMANDER BHUTTO MOKAMAD ANDOY AND RICKY HUSSAIN MORO ISLAMIC LIBERATION FRONT MUSLIM AND CHRISTIAN NORTH COTABATO PEXON MANGANSAKAN PHILIPPINE NATIONAL POLICE AND THE ARMED FORCES PIKIT
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