UN Condemns Killing of Children During Eid-time Attack in Southern Philippines

Jeoffrey Maitem and Mark Navales
Cotabato, Philippines
200528-PH-Eid-1000.jpg A Muslim family offers prayers inside their home as they celebrate Eid al-Fitr, the holiday that marks the end of Ramadan, in Manila, May 24, 2020.

The United Nations on Thursday condemned a mortar attack that killed two children during weekend celebrations marking the end of Ramadan in the southern Philippines, where Islamic State-linked militants are known to operate.

A 10-year-old boy and his 7-year-old sister died when suspected members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) fired a mortar round at a cluster of houses in Datu Saudi Ampatuan, a town in Maguindanao province, on Sunday. Thirteen other civilians, including the siblings’ mother, were injured in the attack that took place as people in the largely Muslim southern region were celebrating Eid al-Fitr, the holiday at the end of the Islamic fasting month.

“We join the government of the Republic of the Philippines in condemning these attacks, which violate international human rights and humanitarian law,” Gustavo Gonzalez, the U.N.’s resident coordinator in the Philippines, said in a statement. “The indiscriminate use of weapons impacting civilians must stop.”

“Armed attacks resulting in the death of innocent children are unacceptable,” he added.

Oyunsaikhan Dendevnorov, the representative to the country for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), called on warring parties in the Philippine south to shield children from further violence.

“We reiterate the urgent appeal to halt hostilities, protect children in the Philippines and safeguard their well-being,” he said.

Dendevnorov and Gonzalez co-chair a task force in the Philippines that monitors violations of children’s rights in armed conflict. Created in 2008, the task force is made up of U.N. agencies as well as human rights groups supporting Manila in crafting policies to protect children affected by war.

Carlito Galvez, a retired military chief who is now a cabinet member who advises President Rodrigo Duterte on peace matters, earlier this week ordered an investigation into Sunday’s violence in Maguindanao.

“We are saddened by what transpired on Sunday. We would like to assure our Moro brothers and sisters that we shall leave no stone unturned as we seek justice for the victims,” Galvez said in a statement on Tuesday.

“I would like to appeal to the residents who have been affected by the ongoing armed conflict, as well as the leadership of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, for calmness and sobriety as authorities conduct an investigation on the incident,” he said.

Sunday’s mortar attack in Datu Saudi Ampatuan occurred after four nearby army detachments came under attack by members of BIFF on Saturday.

BIFF, a splinter group from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), rejected a peace treaty with Manila that paved the way for the creation of an expanded autonomous Muslim region in the south.

Numbering in the few hundreds, BIFF has allied itself with local elements of the Islamic State extremist group, although its fighters did not actively participate in the 2017 siege of Marawi city.


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