DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Moro human rights group hold the military accountable for the reported mortar shelling during Eid’l Fitr celebration Sunday in a village in Datu Saudi Ampatuan town in Maguindanao that killed two children and injured several others.
The incident happened around 3:15 on May 24, which hit the house of Sayyid Tambak in Barangay Kitango that caused the deaths of his children Aslamiya Tambak age 10, and Asnaida Tambak 7. Their mother was injured as well as twelve other relatives.
Kawagib Moro Human Rights reported that at least four 81 millimeter mortar shells landed in the village, as villagers reported that the military was conducting shelling to “flush out” the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in communities in Maguindanao.
Kawagib also cited a report from the Ministry of Social Service and Development in Maguindanao province that more than 6,000 individuals were forced to evacuate due to a series of mortar shelling in the town of Datu Saudi Ampatuan.
The AFP’s 6th Infantry Division denied conducting military operations on May 24 in observance of Eid’l Fitr that marked the end of the month-long Ramadhan.
But another Moro group, Suara Bangsamoro, condemns the long history of military operations that have targeted civilians instead in Moro communities.
“Even though [the military] says that they are pursuing what the government called terrorist elements of BIFF, however, it is the civilian Moro that is widely hit due to the use of airstrikes and mortar shelling in communities claiming to have [BIFF’s] presence,” Suara Bangsamoro spokesperson Jun Naga said.
“The Moro people were expecting that the establishment of Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) under the MILF leadership and the peace talks between the Philippine government and MILF will pave way for peace. But last year, military operations in communities with MILF presence in Maguindanao and North Cotabato never ceased and operations also intensified in other provinces within BARMM,” the group added in their statement.
Kawagib urges the Bangsamoro government to act on this issue.
“We hope that the Bangsamoro government helps the families pursue justice and hold accountable the military for the death of the two girls and violating the rights of the community in Brgy. Kitango,” they said.
Acting on the directive of Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez Jr., the Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities, together with the International Monitoring Team, has started the investigation on the incident.
“We are saddened by what transpired on Sunday. We would like to assure our Moro brothers and sisters that we shall leave no stone unturned as we seek justice for the victims,” Galvez said in a press release.(davaotoday.com)