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Thousands flee fighting in southern Philippines

COTABATO CITY (UCAN): An estimated 16,000 people fled their homes following armed clashes between government troops and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, supporters of the Islamic State, in the southern Philippine province of Maguindanao.
 
Military aircraft began pounding a suspected hideout of in the town of Shariff Saydona Mustapha on March 11.
 
“(The clashes) started with a bomb run,” commander of the army’s 6th Infantry Division, Major General Cirilito Sobejana, said. 
 
“It was a demonstration of air power initially then after that, ground forces went in,” he said.
 
This resulted in fighting that killed at least eight rebel fighters and one government soldier.
 
Raisa Jajurie, minister of social services in the newly-created Bangsamoro region, said displaced families came from several villages.
 
Relief missions have already begun assisting the families.
 
Noraida Abo, head of a local women’s group called Uniphyl-Women, said they worried that residents would not able to leave their homes after the military closed key roads.
 
Sobejana advised residents in the area to stay in evacuation centres.
 
MindaNews quoted a purported rebel spokesperson, Abu Amir, as saying, “We were not attacking them as we were just observing a ‘wait and see’ (approach) to the newly installed Bangsamoro region administration, but we have to fight back once attacked.” 

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