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Villagers displaced as Moro groups clash in North Cotabato

John Unson - Philstar.com
Villagers displaced as Moro groups clash in North Cotabato
Pikit is a town in what is officially Cotabato province but is commonly referred to as North Cotabato.
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COTABATO CITY, Philippines — Two heavily armed Moro groups in the troubled Pikit town in North Cotabato traded shots late Wednesday, sending hundreds of villagers running for their lives.

Police probers are validating reports by villagers that a certain Lito Quiñones was killed while two others were slightly wounded in the crossfire.

Sources from the Army’s 602nd Infantry Brigade and the North Cotabato provincial police said local officials have sent emissaries to convince the leaders of the feuding groups --- Bugdad Matalam Akas and Walid Mamasamlang --- to reposition away from Sitio Galigayanen in Barangay Macabual, Pikit to pave the way for an amicable settlement of the conflict.

The encounter between the two groups, whose leaders are both members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, forced hundreds of villagers to relocate to safer areas.

Local leaders said the showdown is related to the fatal ambush two weeks ago of Macabual’s barangay chairman, Jalandoni Matalam Akas, by suspected followers of Mamasamlang.

Major Maxim Peralta, chief of the Pikit Municipal Police, said Thursday the Matalam and Akas clans have tagged Mamasamlang as the mastermind in the murder of the barangay official.

The barangay captain was riding his motorcycle, en route to somewhere in Pikit from Barangay Macabual, when men with pistols attacked, killing him on the spot.

Major Gen. Roy Galido, commander of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said Thursday he is optimistic the MILF leadership, the Bangsamoro government and the multi-sector Pikit municipal peace and order council can peacefully resolve the hostilities in Barangay Macabual.

“There are mechanisms forged by the MILF and the government that can address the problem. We will support the effort of settling that conflict,” Galido said.

Galido said they shall mobilize the units of the 602nd Brigade in North Cotabato against the feuding groups if they refuse to heed calls for a peaceful resolution of the conflict.

MORO ISLAMIC LIBERATION FRONT

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