By Froilan Gallardo
August 13, 2012
COTABATO CITY (MindaNews/12 August) — Clashes between a breakaway Moro rebel group and the military along the Cotabato-Isulan highway have forced at least 39,000 people to leave their homes in Maguindanao, the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council said Saturday.
The NDRRMC said the fighting has also caused the suspension of classes in 16 schools, affecting some 10,000 students and 260 teachers.
Unidentified men also torched 22 houses in barangays Meta, Iganagampong and Maitumaig in Datu Unsay town, one of the hardest hit in the clashes between government troops and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).
BIFF gunmen had tried to capture the highway and set off bombs since Sunday last week in a rampage that had left five soldiers and policemen dead and three others wounded, according to the NDRRMC.
The clashes also caused trauma among residents, even those who are no strangers to evacuation having been displaced in the past.
“These clashes are scarier than the earlier conflicts we experienced in the past. The BIFF is different. They are more fanatic,” Kagawad Roder Apenida of Barangay Saniag, Ampatuan town, said.
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