A Moro civilian was killed and two others, one of them a minor, wounded by “indiscriminate” artillery fire as government troops pursued communist rebels in Barangay Salat, President Roxas town in Cotabato province last week, a human rights group said.
Karapatan-Southern Mindanao Region, which undertook a fact-finding mission in Barangay Salat two days after the incident, also said several houses were burned by soldiers.
Activists have been protesting the imposition of martial law over the whole of Mindanao, saying it would lead to abuses throughout the island, far beyond the fighting between the Maute group and government forces in Marawi City that prompted President Rodrigo Duterte’s proclamation.
In its report, the human rights group quoted village official Rhis Lumingkal as saying around 20 troops of the 39th Infantry Battalion arrived at his home round 5 a.m. on May 25 to inform him they were visiting the barangay.
An hour later, Lumingkal said he heard gunfire, which lasted for about three hours, as residents, mostly Maguindanaoans, began fleeing to the village center.
Barangay captain Abdillah Makalay said 260 families have evacuated, most of them seeking shelter at the village’s multipurpose center.
A male villager, who asked not to be named, told Karapatan that at around 10 a.m., military helicopters began hovering over their communities and dropped around six bombs. A helicopter then strafed four houses while 105-mm howitzers bombarded the communities.
This was repeated around 3 p.m. when more houses were reportedly strafed.
Karapatan said residents reported that the homes of Moro residents Ghadzali Pedtocasan, Boy Balatamay, Punda Balatamay, and Ameruden Mariga had been burned down by soldiers. The organization said it was still verifying a May 28 report that 10 more civilian homes had been torched.
Around 7:30 p.m. of May 25, residents fetching water and retrieving belongings from their homes were struck by howitzer fire. Abdullah Mamansag, 34, died when shrapnel hit his spine and severed his right leg, Karapatan said.
Norhamin Taligapin, 25, was hit in the stomach, and “Faizl” (not his real name), a 14-year old boy, was wounded in the stomach and chest. The two were rushed to a hospital in Bukidnon and later transferred to Amas Provincial Hospital.
Taligapin told independent media outfit Kilab Multimedia what happened.
Watch Kilab Multimedia’s video report below: