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Former Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels attacked a group of civilians and sparking a brief firefight in the southern Philippine province of Maguindanao, officials said Thursday.

Officials said about 20 gunmen led by Commander Cayub, of the MILF’s National Guard, opened fire on the villagers in Macasampen in Guindulungan town after he failed to locate the man who killed one of his relatives three months ago.

Village chieftain Kamsa Pendatun sought the help of the military, but Cayub’s group fled even before soldiers could arrive.

Officials said the incident resulted to panic and fear among villagers in the area. There was no immediate statement from the MILF about the attack.

The MILF signed a peace accord with the Aquino government last year ending decades of bloody war in the southern region.