Thousands flee amid Basilan clashes

Basilan (CNN Philippines) — The fighting in Basilan that began Wednesday night is affecting three towns: Tipo-Tipo, Ungkaya Pukan and Al-Barka.

Security forces have managed to confine the violence within just a number of hinterland communities.

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Before noontime Friday, there was a heavy exchange of gunfire in Ungkaya Pukan.

Devout Muslims, who have to say their Friday prayers, had to bear with the loud explosions.

Some residents tried to go on with their daily routine despite the heavy pounding of artillery fire heard from afar.

More than a thousand families have fled their homes.

Most of them sought shelter with relatives in other towns.

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Classes in schools were suspended, while most business establishments remained closed.

Those who chose to open their sari-sari (variety) stores in the public market said they badly needed to earn income to feed their families.

But no doubt, fear reigns among residents, especially with the reported presence of radical groups.

The armed men fighting authorities in Basilan are led by the notorious Abu Sayyaf leaders Puruji Indama and Isnilon Hapilon.

Hapilon had previously pledged allegiance to ISIS.

Governor Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao met with Basilan mayors Friday.

They hope to flush the bandits out of Basilan, especially since more of its current followers reportedly came from the nearby Jolo island.

Basilan Governor Jim Hataman said help from the national government for evacuees wouldn't come until Monday.

For now, local officials were distributing relief goods — even as the firefight continued.