120 000 flee Philippines violence

2015-03-20 21:49
Army and police forces escort a handcuffed Mohammad Ali Tambako, the leader of a Muslim rebel group in the south who has been linked to bombings and a beheading. (Bullit Marquez, AP)

Army and police forces escort a handcuffed Mohammad Ali Tambako, the leader of a Muslim rebel group in the south who has been linked to bombings and a beheading. (Bullit Marquez, AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Geneva - More than 120 000 people have fled their homes in the impoverished southern Philippines since fighting broke out between government troops and Islamic militants in late January, the UN refugee agency said on Friday.

"UNHCR is concerned about the safety of civilians as the conflict spreads into local villages," spokesperson Babar Baloch told reporters.

The Philippines military launched an offensive earlier this year against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), a rebel group fighting for an independent Muslim homeland in the south.

The offensive, including attacks with artillery and helicopter gunships, has taken place in poor farming areas on Mindanao island, where Muslim rebels have for decades fought for independence.

Baloch said an estimated 13 municipalities in Maguindanao and North Cotabato had been affected by the eight weeks of clashes.

More than 120 000 had been displaced and sought shelter in schools, public buildings and madrasas, he said.

But he acknowledged, "the estimated number of displaced could be higher, since it does not include people hosted by relatives and friends."

Numbers growing

Baloch also warned that the numbers were "expected to grow as the fighting extends to the local communities ... already hosting many of the displaced."

The volatile security situation is meanwhile blocking UNHCR from accessing many of the affected areas, he said.

UNHCR expressed particular concern for the safety of civilians, including women and children, stuck in the conflict area.

While civilians did not seem to be targeted directly, they were getting caught in the crossfire, Baloch told AFP.

"Women and children could potentially be exposed to exploitation and abuse," he warned, pointing out that many found themselves without income or community protection, and with very limited access to shelter, food, medicine and water.

"UNHCR appeals to all parties of the conflict to ensure the safety of civilians while the law and order operation is underway," he said.

Read more on:    unhcr  |  philippines  |  refugees

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
11 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.