Thorough probe urged into mortar shelling in Maguindanao town that killed 2 minors

John Unson - Philstar.com
Thorough probe urged into mortar shelling in Maguindanao town that killed 2 minors
This satellite photo shows Datu Saudi Ampatuan in Maguindanao province.
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MAGUINDANAO, Philippines — Two girls were killed while 14 others were hurt in explosions Sunday in Datu Saudi Ampatuan town.

The siblings Aslamiya, 10, and seven-year-old Asnaida died from multiple shrapnel wounds.

They were reportedly playing outdoors when two explosions ripped through the premises of their house in Barangay Kitango in Datu Saudi in Maguindanao province killing them both instantly.

In a statement issued by the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao's Bureau of Public Information, the regional government said it "condemns in the strongest term the mortar shelling that happened yesterday in Barangay Kitango, Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Maguindanao which resulted in the tragic death of two minor siblings and the wounding of several others."

"This violence committed against hapless civilians is totally inhumane and evil, occurring as it did on what is supposed to be a festive day of Eid’l Fitr. It also compounds the present difficulties of our people as they struggle through with the COVID-19 pandemic. Only the heartless criminals can commit such a wicked act," it also said.

It also called for "an immediate, thorough and impartial investigation of this tragedy and [for law enforcement to] bring into the bar of justice those who are responsible, no matter who they are or affiliated to."

Local officials, among them members of the Datu Saudi Ampatuan municipal peace and order council, said Monday 14 others, among them the mother of the fatalities, Noraisa, and three minors, were hurt in the explosions.

Barangay residents told reporters they are certain it was mortar fire that hit their village.

According to a situationer report by the regional government's Ministry of Social Services and Development, the shelling also led to the displacement of 1,282 families from Kitango and from barangays Dapaiwan and Elian.

In the same report, MSSD said that three detachments of the Philippine Army in Datu Saudi Ampatuan were harassed by unknown gunmen late last Thursday night.

This was followed by mortar shelling on Friday and then on Sunday.

Major Gen. Diosdado Carreon of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division disputed that the mortar rounds that landed on Barangay Kitango may have been fired by soldiers from nearby military camps.

"There was no Army operation in the area last Sunday," Carreon said.  

Barangay Kitango is surrounded by hills where there are former rebel groups that have since signed peace agreements with the government and gunmen belonging to the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.

The BIFF has been using the black flag of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

Rival MNLF and MILF forces figured in a series of gunfights in Barangay Muti in nearby Guindulugan, Maguindanao the week before.

Lawyer Naguib Sinarimbo, local government minister of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, has urged an extensive probe into the deaths of the two children, whose father reportedly works in the municipal mayor’s office.

"This dastardly act is unacceptable. This must be investigated. The perpetrators must be identified and prosecuted," said Sinarimbo, speaking on behalf of Bangsamoro Chief Minister Hadji Ahod Ebrahim.

Carreon and Brig. Gen. Manuel Abu, director of the Bangsamoro regional police, said in separate statements Monday that Army and police investigators are now investigating the explosions.

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