COTABATO (AFP) – Nine people were killed and three injured in the southern Philippines on Saturday (Feb 12) when a convoy of SUVs was shot at in an ambush linked to a feud between rival Muslim clans, police said.
The attack occurred in a region with a long history of violence, and a short drive from where 58 people – including 32 journalists – were murdered in the nation’s worst political massacre in 2009.
Clan leader Peges Mamasainged and eight others were killed as they travelled down a farm-lined road in Maguindanao province, according to police.
Both the victims and attackers were led by former commanders of a Muslim guerilla group that waged a bloody, decades-long insurgency in the region before a peace agreement was signed in 2014, provincial police spokesman Fhaeyd Cana told AFP.
The authorities are looking for suspects led by Mr Mamasainged’s rival, Mr Cana said, adding the two families were involved in a long-running blood feud.
Well-armed Muslim families in the mainly Catholic country’s south at times resort to clan warfare to settle disputes that can last for generations.
“(Guindulungan town) police described this attack as a rido,” Mr Cana said, using the local term for blood feud.
The attack was the province’s bloodiest since the 2009 massacre, he added.
Five clan members were among the gunmen found guilty of those killings. The family’s leaders were sentenced to 30-year prison terms in 2019.
Both the main suspect in Saturday’s attack and the slain Mamasainged were once commanders of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces, the military arm of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
The front signed a peace deal with Manila in March 2014, ending decades of rebellion that claimed tens of thousands of lives. Its leaders now head a self-ruled area in the former battlefields that includes Maguindanao.
However, the decommissioning of thousands of former guerrilla fighters and their weapons has been delayed by the coronavirus pandemic as well as technical issues.