TO SAFER GROUNDS. Civilians board a multicab vehicle along the national highway in Barangay Rebuken, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao del Sur, as fighting erupted between Moro gunmen since Wednesday night (Jan. 11, 2023). At least 50 families evacuated the village, where sporadic clashes continued on Thursday morning. (Photo courtesy of JC Boy of Barangay Rebuken via DXMS Cotabato)

COTABATO CITY – The police have been deployed as peacekeepers in Sultan Kudarat town, Maguindanao del Norte, to ensure the safety of civilians fleeing their homes due to an ongoing firefight between Moro gunmen in the interiors of Barangay Rebuken.

“Our troops and soldiers are in the area securing the motorists and the civilians who fled their homes,” said Brig. Gen. John Guyguyon, Police Regional Office-12 director.

He said an unidentified armed group harassed Wednesday night the 104th base command of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), sending some 50 families living nearby fleeing to safer areas.

“Fighting sparked since Wednesday night, sporadic skirmishes were monitored,” Guyguyon said, adding that no reported casualties were reported so far from the warring groups.

“We have coordinated with the MILF ceasefire panel, our troops are on standby in the area to allow peaceful settlement of the conflict,” the police official added.

Salman Bendong, a resident of the village, said the fighting has put ordinary civilians in crossfire.

“The fighting was close to our house, so we need to evacuate; we had a sleepless night,” Bendong said.

Guyguyon said the traffic along portions of Cotabato City to North Cotabato province via Sultan Kudarat town remained open and passable. (PNA)