Army foils BIFF plot to overrun Maguindanao town hall
CAMP SIONGCO, Maguindanao — Government soldiers on Tuesday clashed with a group of armed men, foiling an attempt by an Islamic State (IS)-linked group to overrun the town hall of Datu Paglas in Maguindanao province, military reports said.
Capt. Arvin John Encinas, spokesperson for the 6th Infantry Division, said the firefight between soldiers under the 33rd Infantry Battalion and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) broke out at Sitio Mopac in Barangay Poblacion, some 500 meters from Datu Paglas town hall, at 6 a.m. and went on “for hours.”
Encinas said a local official informed soldiers of the plot to take over the town hall, after armed men, reportedly led by one Sulaiman Tudon, were seen at Sitio Boac, also in Barangay Poblacion.
Military reports said BIFF took five residents hostage as they withdrew. It was not clear, however, if these residents were able to escape.
“No civilians are trapped [by the fighting], although many of them have fled to safer grounds,” Encinas said, referring to 50 residents who sought temporary shelter at the town’s gymnasium.
Encinas said information reaching the military showed that Tudon and his men were engaged in drug dealing, along with Abdulatif Pendaliday, known as “Grasscutter,” a BIFF leader operating in Datu Paglas and nearby towns.
Encinas said the attempt to take the town hall was just a “tactic” to divert the soldiers’ attention away from its operations against BIFF in the towns of Shariff Aguak, Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Mamasapano and Datu Salibo.
Military reports said four BIFF members — Muktar Undi, Orai Sangkay, Aliman Bontah and Idris Udar — were killed in the firefight at Barangay Elian in Datu Saudi Ampatuan. Two soldiers, identified as Staff Sgt. Alfredo Tambo and Pfc. Ian Cajeta of the 21st Mechanized Company, were wounded.
Encinas said Abu Turaipe, a BIFF leader and the target of the military operation since Sunday, escaped while being pursued by government troops in Shariff Saydona town. —Reports from Edwin Fernandez, Jeoffrey Maitem and Bong Sarmiento
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