KIDAPAWAN CITY -- At least 15 mortars landed on a rebel camp located in a village in Matalam, North Cotabato, around 10 p.m. Monday, a top commander of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) said.
Despite the heavy mortar shelling, no one was hurt among the villagers and members of the MILF positioned in Barangay Manubuan, said MILF Commander Noa Sabel of the 108th Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF).
The camp under attack is led by a certain MILF Commander Oscar Matiyagal.
Sabel blamed a number of members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the government’s peacekeeping forces stationed at barangays Manubuan and West Patadon for the series of atrocities in Matalam.
But residents of Barangay Manubuan are telling different stories.
Sammy Matuguel, 36, farmer, and a native of Sitio Leonard, Barangay Manubuan said it was the MILF forces, together with some Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), that attacked them while they were on their way to their farming village to harvest their produce.
Matuguel has five hectares of land at sitio Leonard planted to corn and fruit trees.
Village councilman Daud Tigkanan of Manubuan said some 30 armed Moro rebels positioned along the road to Sitio Leonard fired shots towards them when they were about to return homes last week.
The attack led barangay officials from Manubuan to request for additional troops from the Special Forces and members of the 602nd Brigade to secure them from the MILF and BIFF.
Captain Antonio Bulao, chief civil military operations officer and spokesman for the 602nd brigade, said they received last week several requests for military intervention from the village officials.
"It's already a month since the fighting broke out in Manubuan. The school in Manubuan has been used as temporary shelter of the evacuees. Pupils have not gone to school for at least a month because of the ongoing fighting," Bulao said.
Classes at the Manubuan Elementary School located along the highway in Barangay Manubuan, Matalam are still suspended as of this posting Tuesday night. At least 67 families from Sitio Leonard are housed in school.
On Monday, their troops, while patrolling along Manubuan highway, were harassed by armed lawless group.
"Our soldiers were attacked by M203 grenade launcher. Our detachment in Manubuan was also fired at using barrette. That was a clear harassment. So we have to discipline these groups," Bulao said.
Bulao admitted that on Monday night they fired mortars towards the direction of a base located just a few kilometers away from the detachment of the Special Forces and the Task Force Cotabato.
"We don't know who those people were staying there. But they already dug fox holes and they’ve been harassing commuters, farmers, and those using the barangay and national highway. We can’t allow this group of people to control the highway so we have to send them away, that's why we fired mortars towards their directions," Bulao said. (MCM/Sun.Star Davao/Sunnex)