Displaying items by tag: War

HUMAN COST OF WAR In war-torn Marawi, tales of daring escape amid violence

By: Allan Nawal, Richel V. Umel - @inquirerdotnetPhilippine Daily Inquirer

MARAWI, Lanao del Sur — It was during a lull in the fighting that Rohaina Salic first heard it, the bellow of a distant voice telling civilians trapped in the war-stricken city of Marawi they could finally emerge from their homes.

She didn’t know whether the plea, projected from a megaphone blocks away, had come from the Philippine Army, or from black-clad militants linked to the Islamic State group who seized this mosque-studded town last month.

She had not set foot outside since the clashes—the worst to hit the country in years—began. But on this day, at least for this one precious moment, the guns had fallen silent.

And it was time to go.

“We didn’t really know whether it was safe to come out,” said the 38-year-old Salic, who walked out of the rubble of Marawi on Thursday with six members of her family. “We put all our faith in God.”

More than two weeks after Islamic militants plunged the lakeside town into chaos with an unprecedented attack that has killed close to 200 people and triggered fears that extremists are trying to gain a foothold in the country’s restive south, hundreds of militants remain stubbornly lodged in Marawi’s city center.

And every day, civilians like Salic trickle out with harrowing tales of survival, and escape. On Thursday, the lucky ones numbered 45.

But the violence is far from over. On Friday, a 15-year-old boy died from a stray bullet fired by a suspected enemy sniper as he prayed at a mosque in the village of Datu Saber. The victim was identified as Abdillah Dimangampong Masid, and reports reaching the military here said the bullet came from the direction of Mapandi village, where the gunmen are still believed holed out.

At least 16 soldiers were also wounded in clashes on Friday and were rushed to a hospital in nearby Iligan City.

Those who were lucky, like Salic, said her family was able to survive for two weeks because part of their residence is also a grocery, stocked with biscuits, instant noodles and soft drinks. They also had a large stock of drinking water, but used rainwater to wash their hands and the dishes.

The family had not had electricity since May 24. They lit candles each night as the crackle of gunfire echoed outside.

But on Thursday, it was the absence of gunfire that drove them out the door, only to find massive destruction in every direction.

Salic said her family—three children and four adults—crawled over rubble and under downed electricity polls. Rubble from the fighting blocked many streets.

Trust in Allah

Some civilians had managed to walk out, or run, on their own. Others were plucked by the Army or civilian rescue teams that were launching risky missions near the front lines with white flags wrapped around their vehicles’ antennae.

The evacuees who end up at the provincial government’s headquarters are met by doctors and nurses who check their vital signs and offer first aid and emergency care before sending them on to safer areas further inland.

Salic’s daughter, Aljannah, 7, carried a makeshift white flag, fashioned from a T-shirt and a pole they broke off of a household cleaning tool. As they neared an Army checkpoint, a single gunshot rang out. Aljannah made a move to run.

But Salic quickly grabbed her daughter’s hand and yanked her close.

“Don’t run,” she whispered. “Trust in Allah.”

Sittie Johaynee D. Sampaco, a Department of Health volunteer, said the new arrivals appear deeply traumatized, having spent days on end without food and water.

“Some of the patients can’t even speak. Some just cry and won’t interact with other people,” Sampaco said. “This isn’t over. We’re expecting to get much more.”

It’s unclear how many people remain trapped in Marawi. Authorities have put the figure this week at anywhere from 100 to 2,000. They include at least a dozen hostages, among them a Catholic priest and parishioners who were seized when gunmen stormed their Church shortly after clashes began on May 23. Their fate is unknown.

Children

At Badelles Multi-Purpose Hall at the Iligan City National School of Fisheries in Barangay Buruun here, 5-year-old Hamsa was unmindful of the people around him.

He did not even look when the Inquirer took shots of him as he held a blue crayon and scribbled lines in an attempt to lay color on an illustration of the Sarimanok, a colorful legendary bird that is part of the Maranao culture and literature. It adorns many buildings in Lanao.

“He’s always like that, he colors, he scribbles. He would play for some time, but then he’ll go back to coloring again,” Tarhata Mustari,19, Hamsa’s mother said. She was nursing a baby—her third child who was born while they were fleeing the violence.

Nearby, Karim, 7, was holding a pencil on one hand and a box of crayons on the other—while several children either played Scrabble, hula hoops, alphabetical tiles and other toys. Karim started drawing two parallel lines on paper with such pressure that his pencil snapped.

Asked what the lines were, he just made an empty gaze and said nothing. Social workers have yet to find out if his anger was caused by the fighting that forced his family to flee Marawi.

The children—which make up the majority of the 2,000 evacuees—were undergoing pyschosocial interventions, either in groups or by themselves.

“We’re still on our third day (Friday) and what we are doing now is to allow them more time to play,” Patricia Amante, a volunteer for Omega Team Philippines, said.

Omega is a Bukidnon-based group which also conducted psychosocial intervention sessions among children in the aftermath of the Tropical Depression “Sendong” tragedy.

Amante said they have not yet really interacted with the children to find out how the Marawi siege had affected them, but said there were clear signs of trauma. Many children here just wake up and cry, or would cower in fear when large objects fall on the ground or even just a sound of a plane passing by. —WITH JIGGER JERUSALEM AND AP

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11 soldiers killed by ‘friendly fire’ in Marawi

Military airstrikes aimed at Islamist militants in Marawi killed 11 of their own soldiers and injured seven others, Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla, spokesperson of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), said in a news conference on Thursday.

In an earlier news conference, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana put the number of fatalities at 10. But Padilla updated the figure.

“A group of our military armed men were hit by our own airstrikes,” Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told reporters in Manila, adding the incident happened on Wednesday.

Security forces have been battling militants flying the black flags of the Islamic State (IS) group in Marawi, a major Muslim city in the predominantly Catholic Philippines, since Tuesday last week.

The military has bombed and fired rockets from attack helicopters throughout the conflict with the militants, who have been hiding in residential areas holding hostages.

About 2,000 civilians are also trapped in the militant-held areas, according to the local government.

Fire rages at several houses following airstrikes by Philippine Air Force bombers to retake control of Marawi city from Muslim militants who lay siege for nearly a week, Saturday, May 27, 2017 in southern Philippines. Philippine military jets fired rockets at militant positions Saturday as soldiers tried to wrest back control of a southern city from gunmen linked to the Islamic State group, witnesses said. Civilians waved flags from their windows to show they are not combatants. AP

Military chiefs have repeatedly said the assaults involved “precision” and “surgical” airstrikes, and assured they were not harming any of the trapped civilians or hostages.

“It’s sad but sometimes it happens in the fog of war. The coordination was not properly done,” Lorenzana said Thursday as he announced the deaths.

He told Agence France-Presse (AFP) later via text message that seven soldiers had also been wounded.

The clashes erupted when security forces raided a house to arrest Isnilon Hapilon, a veteran Filipino militant regarded as IS’s leader in the Philippines. He is on the US government’s list of most-wanted terrorists.

Authorities said they were taken by surprise when dozens of gunmen emerged to protect Hapilon and then went on a rampage through Marawi, which has a population of 200,000.

Most of the residents had fled the city but the International Committee of the Red Cross has repeatedly expressed deep concern for those who remained trapped, and called for a humanitarian ceasefire

“I think it’s horrific for the civilian people who are in there and we really hope that both sides can agree that the civilians should be given the opportunity to come out,” the deputy head of the ICRC’s Philippine delegation, Martin Thalmann, told AFP in Marawi on Wednesday.

President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law across the entire southern region of Mindanao in response to the crisis, which he described as the start of a major campaign by IS to establish a foothold in the Philippines.

Eighty-nine militants have been killed in the fighting, and the gunmen have murdered 19 civilians, the military said on Wednesday.

The announcement of the friendly fire deaths brings the number of security forces killed to 31, and the combined death toll to 139./rga /atm

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Roots of Mindanao wars

(The Philippine Star)

The following is the full statement issued by De La Salle Philippines President Br. Jose M. Jimenez FSC on the conflict in Marawi. It is entitled Upholding the Rights of Citizens in a Time of Conflict: An Appeal for a Holistic Response to the Crisis in Marawi

“In the past days we have witnessed how the lives of our fellow Filipinos in Marawi have been disrupted by the actions of the Maute Group. As many flee the violence that has taken over the city and as many experience displacement, we continue to appeal to civil society to work together with the local church and government agencies to ensure the safety and well being of those affected. In solidarity with those who experience this insecurity, let us ensure the availability of necessary material and social supports to help our affected brethren pass over this period of crisis. As educators, we wish to call special attention to the plight of children and young people, who in this situation of conflict are rendered the most vulnerable.

 

We denounce the lawless acts that have been committed by the Maute Group against the civilian population of Marawi. The right of people to life and liberty cannot be subordinated to one group’s assertion of its political or religious beliefs. The actions of the Maute group run counter to the values of tolerance and dialogue that we wish our young people to learn and live by.

We urge our government leaders to uphold the processes guaranteed by the 1987 Constitution. We believe that the restoration of order in Marawi City can be accomplished by the judicious use of the powers provided by the Constitution and the unwavering commitment to protect and respect the inviolable rights of individuals. The situation of disorder cannot be addressed by an appeal to discord and wanton disregard of the limits imposed on the exercise of the state’s power. The prudent use of power by those in authority is a blessing for those who are governed.

The conflict that is now playing out in Marawi City has as well, deep roots in our country’s history. As an institution of learning, we are committed to a deeper appreciation of the roots of discontent that have fuelled this conflict. We pledge, to build alongside our civil government, the structures that will allow every Filipino access to resources that are necessary for development. Our development can only be authentic if we all develop together. As an educational institution, we re-commit ourselves to allowing persons and communities to realize their own power for creating good. May the long march towards the peace we long for begin in our hearts today and live on in the actions we shall take in the days ahead.

Fraternally, Br. Jose Mari Jimenez FSC ,president, De La Salle Philippines

 Roots of the conflict

I follow the news to know what is happening. But I read books to understand  what’s happening. There are many books that can help us understand the  roots of the conflict in Mindanao.

Gallantry in Mindanao by Ben Cal was published in 2000. In the book’s preface, the author, a Filipino newsman, wrote the reason for writing the book: “ The outbreak of another war in Mindanao, the second  one in my generation, sent my memory chips into a frenzied rewind bringing me back to the first, the one the government fought against the Moro National Liberation Front in the early Seventies.”

He was referring to the war, in Mindanao, during the martial law regime of Marcos. It was a conflict that resulted in more than 100,000 civilian deaths and 10,000 soldiers and policemen who  were killed during the conflict. 

 Ben Cal narrates the story of the gallantry of the soldiers who fought for the Republic. The most interesting narration, from a historical view is his description of the first clash with the Abu Sayyaf, which was formed in 1989.

On the morning of Friday, January 13, 1995, a nine year old boy reported to an army unit in Mabuso, Basilan that around 150 armed members of the Abu Sayyaf were unloading supplies two kilometers from the camp. Captain Cirilito Sobrejana of the 1st Scout Ranger Company organized a team of 30 Scout Rangers to conduct a surprise attack. The clash in Matarlang, Basilan was the first time the Abu Sayyaf, then led by Janjalani, figured in a gunfight with government forces. Most of the stories in the book sound almost exactly the same as the news reports we are hearing today.

Muslim in the Philippines by Adib Majul was published in 1999 – a “must reading” for those who are serious about understanding the conflict in Mindanao. The author is a converted Muslim and views Philippine history from a Muslim perspective. 

Among the insights in his book, he says that Islam in the Philippines was part of the Islamization process in the Malay and Indonesian Peninsula. The Spanish attempt to Christanize and subjugate the Muslims in Mindanao was the primary reason for the start of the Moro wars. The Muslims were provoked to rise up and defend their territories.

In order to instill fear, Spanish soldiers destroyed Muslim houses, plantations and beheaded captured local leaders. Women and children were taken as slaves. Muslims from Borneo and the Malay Peninsula have always aided the Muslims in the Philippines in fighting the Spanish invaders.

The conflict in Marawi has deep roots in our history. A necessary step towards peace is to understand the history of all our people including the Muslims in the Philippines.

Creative writing classes for kids/teens and adults

Young Writers’ Hangout for Kids & Teens on June 3 (1:30-3pm).with Russell Molina,  Creative Writing Workshop for Adults with award winning fictionist Susan Lara will be on June 17 (1:30-4:30 pm).  All sessions are at Fully Booked Bonifacio High Street.  For registration and fee details text 0917-6240196 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

 
 
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