Maguindanao villagers flee as Army blasts terrorist stronghold

Villagers flee as Army blasts terrorist stronghold in Maguindanao del Sur

One BIFF member confirmed dead as the air and ground attacks prompted some 50 families to evacuate to safer grounds

Villagers flee as Army blasts terrorist stronghold in Maguindanao del Sur

TO SAFER GROUNDS Residents of Barangay Butilen, Datu Salibo, Maguindanao del Sur, cross the marshland to reach safer grounds after the military launched air and ground assaults against local terrorists on Saturday morning, May 25. —photos courtesy of Tiyakap Kalilintad

CAMP SIONGCO, MAGUINDANAO DEL NORTE, Philippines — A member of the Islamic State (IS)-linked Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) was slain in a massive air and ground assault launched by the Philippine Army in Datu Salibo town of Maguindanao del Sur province on Saturday, which also prompted villagers to flee their homes.

Maj. Gen. Alex Rillera, commander of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said the gunman was found dead in Barangay Butilen, with a caliber .45 pistol and ammunition found near his body.


READ: BIFF trainer slain in clash with gov’t troops in Maguindanao del Sur


Rillera added that the still unidentified BIFF member engaged soldiers in a firefight as he and others were fleeing strikes from helicopter gunships.

He explained that the operation was initiated in response to reports from the local community about the presence of suspected terrorists in the area, many of whom had existing warrants of arrest for their alleged involvement in extortion and other lawless acts.

The air and ground strikes unfolded in the early morning of Saturday, targeting BIFF positions in the marshland communities of Butilen.

READ: BIFF leader, 11 gunmen slain in Maguindanao Army assaults

On to safety

Abdulrashid Tanto, a resident of Datu Salibo town, said he and his family were awakened by explosions, sending them to evacuate their home immediately.

“May binobomba sabi ko sa misis ko, kaya’t bakwit kami agad (There’s bombing, so, let’s go evacuate, I told my wife),” Tanto told the Inquirer in an interview.


Tanto and several other residents of Barangay Butilen have fled to safer grounds, beginning at 5:30 a.m. on Saturday.

Datu Nash Sandigan, village chief of Barangay Butilen, helped his constituents cross the marshland from the village while strikes continued from helicopter gunships and artillery.

He said about 50 families have fled to nearby villages, bringing valuables and work animals. “Air strikes have stopped, but the residents still refuse to return home,” Sandigan noted.

Lt. Col. Roden Orbon, speaking for the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, confirmed the air strikes but stressed it was far away from communities.

“We are assuring the people in the community that the local government and the military will protect and secure them,” he said.

Villagers flee as Army blasts terrorist stronghold in Maguindanao del Sur

Clearing operation

Soldiers recovered several explosives from the area during the clearing operation that followed the bombardment.

The military assault came a day after eight BIFF members surrendered, turning over 15 assorted firearms, grenade launchers and improvised bombs to the Army’s 57th Infantry Battalion in Upi, Maguindanao del Norte, headed by Lt. Col. Guillermo T. Mabute Jr.

Rillera said those who surrendered on Friday belonged to the BIFF’s Karialan and Bungos factions, which are rabidly loyal to the IS.

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“Due to intensified and decisive military operations, as well as hunger and exhaustion from continuous hiding in the mountains, eight former members of local terrorist groups have surrendered,” Rillera said.

Brig. Gen. Michael Santos, commander of the Army’s 603rd Infantry Brigade, said the former BIFF gunmen admitted to their participation in multiple atrocities, including bombings, harassment of military patrol bases and ambuscades in Mindanao.

TAGS: BIFF, Philippine Army

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