On 18 March 2021, at 5 o’clock in the morning, a series of mortar shelling was fired by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) towards Barangay Kitango, Datu Saudi Ampatuan Municipality and neighboring barangays in the Municipalities of Mamasapano and Shariff Saydona Mustapha, all in Maguindanao Province. This was followed by a ground gunfight between the AFP forces and the alleged members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) around 10:30AM in Barangay Kitango Proper, particularly in the market site along the provincial highway.
On 19 March 2021, an assessment led by the Ministry of Social Services and Development (MSSD) was conducted and jointly by government and humanitarian agencies was conducted to assess the displacement situation of the displaced families and their immediate needs.
On 21 March 2021, a special meeting of the protection agencies led by the MSSD was conducted to present the identified issues and needs of the internally displaced persons (IDPs) and the responses from various organizations. Based on the report from the MSSD, there are around 9,347 families (approximately 46,735 individuals)as of 21 March 2021 who were forced to flee their homes in search for safer grounds and sought refuge with their relatives and some families have stayed in 31 evacuation centers (ECs) situated in the Municipalities of Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Datu Salibu, Mamasapano, Shariff Aguak and Shariff Saydona Mustapha, all in Maguindanao Province. There is no definite point as to when the displaced families can safely return to their places of origin as the armed encounter is continuing and the situation remains volatile. The highway connecting Datu Saudi Ampatuan Municipality to Datu Piang Municipality was temporarily closed as a result of the fighting.