Latest: Troops withdrawn to ease tension (in Midsayap)
DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/06 March) — Army soldiers in the conflict areas around Midsayap town willwithdraw to avoid a repeat of Monday night’s fierce fighting that left 18 dead and triggered a massevacuation of residents.Brig. Gen. Edgardo Gurrea, chief of the government Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of
Hostilities (CCCH) said Maj. Gen. Nehemias Pajarito, commanding general of Army 6th Infantry
Division has ordered the Army units to withdraw to barangays Sambulawan and Ulandang in
He said the order became effective this afternoon (Tuesday).
But Gurrea said government troops will remain in control of the vital road linking Midsayap to Datu
Piang town in Maguindanao.
Meanwhile, Rexall Kaalim of the Bantay Ceasefire appealed to aid agencies for food and shelter for
the estimated 700 families who fled due to last Monday’s fighting.
“The aid agencies should come now before these evacuees starve,” Kaalim said.
He said besides the new arrival of 700 families, there were already more than a thousand families
who evacuated last week as soon as Army soldiers started occupying positions along the Midsayap
and Datu Piang road,
Kaalim said the 500 families earlier trapped inside a madrasah in barangay Sambulawan refused to
vacate fearing that the soldiers will occupy the building.
Gurrea said a team composed of the Malaysian-led International Monitoring Team, GRP-MILF CCCH
and Bantay Ceasefire volunteers will conduct fact-finding on the fighting on March 13.
Both the Army and the MILF accused each other of starting the fighting last Monday night.
Lt. Col. Joselito Ando, 6ID spokesperson said the fighting started when 300 MILF rebels
simultaneously attacked two Army detachments in barangays Lumupog and Kadigasan in Midsayap
around 10pm. Monday.
He said the soldiers backed by artillery and air strikes managed to repulse the attack by 10 a.m.
Ando said 17 MILF rebels were killed in the attack. He said one soldier was also killed and two others
MILF spokesperson Eid Kabalu, however, accused the Army of deploying in areas vacated earlier by
the MILF. He said this allowed the soldiers positional advantage over the MILF.
“We have to fight back because we were pushed to the corner,” Kabalu said.
Gurrea said the MILF withdrawal was earlier agreed upon during a meeting by both the government
and the MILF last Jan. 28.
He said the Army also agreed to withdraw to reciprocate the MILF withdrawal.
The MILF withdrew for about 25 kilometers from Barangay Tugal towards Pulangi or Rio Grande
River. The MILF, which maintains a peacekeeping force along the Midsayap and Datu Piang road, also
Last week, Gurrea said the Army deployed troops in the areas vacated by the MILF to secure 40
American soldiers conducting a medical mission in Datu Piang.
Gurrea claimed the MILF conducted several provocative acts as soon as the soldiers began their
deployment. He said the first provocation came on March 2 when armed men fired M203 rifle
grenades at an Army detachment in barangay Kadigasan.
“It was the duty of the government soldiers to check these provocations,” Gurrea said.
He said they have also been receiving reports that the MILF have conducted checkpoints along the
Midsayap and Datu Piang road which is a violation of the Jan. 28 agreement. (Froilan Gallardo/