By Ali G. Macabalang
Cotabato City – Two Moro armed groups clashed on Friday for control of banana farms in two Maguindanao towns, causing panic among villagers in the disputed areas, the military disclosed.
Lt. Col. Gerry Besana, spokesman of the Army-led anti-crime Task Force Central, said the two groups – one led by Kabag Alilayah and the other by Jacob Sangki – are squabbling for dominance over strategic spots in the Delinanas Cavendish banana farm in the adjoining Datu Abdullah Sangki and Ampatuan towns.
Besana, citing information from local officials and field Army units, said Alilayah and Sangki both belong to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s (MILF’s) 106th Base Command.
He said the group of Sangki was reportedly supported by Mama Simpal of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in fighting Alilayah and his followers.
The BIFF, espousing extreme Islamic ideology, is not covered by the government’s current ceasefire accord with the MILF.
No casualty was reported in the clash, but the firefights created panic among villagers in the adjoining towns, Besana said.
The armed skirmish erupted a day after the Abdullah Sangki town Mayor Miriam Mangudadatu ordered a temporary closure of the Delinanas banana farm due to security issues and non-compliance by its management of municipal government regulations, including non-payment of rentals of lands leased from Moro owners.
Meanwhile, the Provincial Peace and Order Council (PPOC) chaired by Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu reportedly sent emissaries to pacify the squabbling groups and defuse the tension.