9 dead, 6 wounded in Cotabato gunfights

John Unson - Philstar.com
9 dead, 6 wounded in Cotabato gunfights
Soldiers are now guarding the areas where Friday’s deadly incident is likely to spill over.
Philstar.com / John Unson

ALEOSAN, North Cotabato — Nine got killed, five of them members of the Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Unit, in a series of related encounters Friday in an interior barangay here.

In a statement Saturday, the Aleosan Municipal Police Station identified the CAFGU members killed in the hostilities in Sitio Mantawak in Barangay Tapudoc as Ramel Santillan, Jomar Roben, Jesry Galo, Melvin Cabrera and Johnrey Cabrera.

The gunfights in Barangay Tapudoc reportedly started with the fatal ambush at past 2:00 p.m. Friday of Santillan by gunmen while on his way to their detachment in the area riding a motorcycle.

The local police said the four responding companions of Santillan --- Roben, Galo and the Cabrera siblings --- were killed in an ensuing shootout with his killer, armed with assault rifles.

Community leaders here, among them traditional Moro elders, told reporters Saturday the protagonists in Friday’s gunfights in Barangay Tapudoc were the slain militiamen versus a barangay councilor named Odin Khalil and a group identified with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

The rival groups have been locked since 2016 in a deadly “rido,” a generic term for clan war in most southern vernaculars, and joint attempts by local officials, the police and the military to reconcile them were fruitless.

Three followers of Khalil, Abdul Khaeer Odin, Zulfikar Taya and Sammy Palao and a still unidentified villager were killed in Friday’s clashes, according to the local police.

Two others in Khalil’s group, Alameen Piang and Mohamad Kanakan, and three CAFGU members, Ariel Wacan, Gibel Galo and Harison Galo and a volunteer community watchman, Dante Boboy, were hurt in the ensuing encounters, now in different hospitals.

Barangay Tapudoc is one of the 63 Barangays in different Cotabato towns grouped together as Special Geographic Area of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region.

There are also members  of the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in the area.

The BIFF, tagged in deadly bomb attacks in recent years, is not covered by the peace overture between the government and the MILF.

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