8 BIFF men, soldier killed in Maguindanao clashes
DATU PAGLAS, Maguindanao — Eight members of an outlawed Moro group linked to Islamic State militants and a government soldier were killed in separate clashes here and in Shariff Saydona Mustapha town on Monday and Tuesday, the military said.
Five other soldiers and two members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) were hurt in the skirmishes, said Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc, commander of the Army’s 33rd Infantry Battalion, who led his troops in engaging the BIFF group in the firefight on Monday.
BIFF men Ali Tudon, Alamid Yusop, Calon Benzar and an unidentified fighter were killed during the firefight that foiled the attempt of BIFF, reportedly led by Sulaiman Tudon, to take over a town hall.
Also wounded were two BIFF men.
In Shariff Saydona Mustapha, four other BIFF fighters were killed in a clash with members of the Army’s 2nd Mechanized Infantry Battalion on Tuesday.
They were identified as Muktar Sundi and Orang Sangkay, Alman Bonta and Warin Odar, all under BIFF leader Abu Solaiman.
Sgt. Jose Nasar de Luna of 2nd Mechanized Infantry Battalion was killed while his companion, Pvt. Roy Mark Exiomo, was wounded during the clash.
Cabunoc said there could be more fatalities on the BIFF side in Datu Paglas town, as the military fired mortars on the area, where the group was positioned 500 meters from the town hall.
He said government troops had concentrated fire on a cluster of houses where BIFF fighters were believed to be hiding.
Five minors, he said, were earlier taken as hostage by the group but they escaped during the firefight.
Backed by the police’s Special Action Force and supported by armored vehicles and infantry mortars, troops of the 33rd Infantry Battalion engaged BIFF gunmen in a nine-hour gunfight.
Cabunoc identified the injured soldiers as Cpl. Millard Bacatan and Pvt. Allan Cabildo of the 33rd Infantry Battalion, and Musa Kalim, a militiaman.
Government soldiers had difficulty penetrating enemy location due to traps that the BIFF planted along the road.
They recovered three improvised bombs along the pathways leading to the BIFF-occupied positions.
“Let us prevent terrorists from sowing chaos in urban centers or imitate the tactics that they used in Marawi last year,” said Brig. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, 6th Infantry Division commander, referring to the five-month siege of Marawi City staged by the Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups. —Edwin Fernandez
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