By Mama Gubal, Special to Arab News
Published — Sunday 21 April 2002
Last Update 21 April 2002 3:00 am
MADALUM, Philippines, 21 April — At least four have been killed and several others wounded in an apparent case of misencounter between government soldiers and separatist fighters, an official of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) reported yesterday.
The clash, involving elements of Philippine Army‘s 67th Infantry Battalion headed by Captain Sarip and MILF forces under Commander Zainoden Langkowa, took place Friday afternoon in the town of Madalum in Lanao del Sur province.
According to MILF spokesman Eid Kabalu, Commander Langkowa and his men were on their way to Madalum proper from their Bilal Base at Munay, Lanao del Norte, upon invitation by the town executive, to help mediate a rido (clan dispute).
What they did not know was that army soldiers led by a Captain Sarip, who is also a Muslim, were also invited to mediate.
An exchange of gunfire between the two groups killed four of Zainoden’s men on the spot while several of the army soldiers were wounded, Kabalu said.
“This is a clear case of misencounter … after all the groups were all there to help pacify the violent confrontation that had been going on between two families in the area,” he said.
Kabalu further said there was no intention on the part of the MILF forces to engage anybody in a confrontation, including government forces.
The MILF is observing a cease-fire it had signed with the government last year.
Kabalu said the MILF side apparently suffered more dead casualties because they were caught by surprise. He said it was the group of Captain Sarip that first fired.
The soldiers were at that time temporarily occupying a schoolbuilding, the MILF spokesman added.
Municipal Mayor Piyamili U. Sarangani has yet to issue statement on the incident.
Meanwhile, in Cotabato City, Mayor Muslimin Sema yesterday confirmed that the death of a certain Nasser Abdul at Campo Muslim had something to do with drug trafficking now proliferating in the area.
Sema made this statement in an interview this morning, where he admitted that drug trafficking is one of the serious problems now being faced by his administration.
He said the police are doing everything possible to neutralize drug trafficking groups.
Slain victim Nasser Abdul is a government “asset” whose assigned task is focused on drug trafficking and other related issues, officials said.
Mayor Sema, former secretary-general of the Moro National Liberation Front of Nur Misuari, has declared war on all form of criminality amid a series of killings, robberies and other forms of crimes taking place in and around the city.