Clashes continue between gov’t forces and BIFF rebels in Maguindanao
COTABATO CITY, Philippines – Four Moro rebels were killed and a soldier was wounded when Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) attacked Army and Moro Islamic Liberation Front positions in Maguindanao Sunday night, the military said Monday.
But a BIFF spokesman denied they lost any fighter and claimed instead that the military suffered three dead.
The Inquirer could not independently verify the claims.
Colonel Dickson Hermoso, speaking for the 6th Infantry Division, said about 50 BIFF guerrillas armed with mortars and assault rifles attacked a camp of the 45th Infantry Battalion in Barangay Sapakan, Raja Buayan, Maguindanao beginning at 8:45 p.m.
”They were trying to overrun our Army positions. In the process they also attacked an MILF detachment in the village,” Hermoso said, referring to the formerly secessionist group with which the government has concluded a peace agreement and from which the BIFF broke away.
Hermoso said the soldier who was wounded suffered only minor injuries and was in no danger.
In a phone interview, BIFF spokesman Abu Misry Mama admitted his comrades were involved in the Raja Buayan attack.
“We confirm we attacked the Army detachment but we deny we suffered four dead,” Mama said, adding that the Army suffered three dead, including a lieutenant.
Hermoso denied Mama’s claim.
He said the Raja Buayan incident was latest in a series of attacks on military detachment by the BIFF since last week.
”Our troops had been on alert since last week because of the BIFF atrocities,” Hermoso said.
Last Friday, two civilians were killed by a mortar shell the military claim was fired by the rebels. The two victims were among civilians crossing a river in a boat to escape fighting between government forces and the BIFF in Pikit, North Cotabato, when a mortar shell landed and exploded in the vessel.
Earlier, BIFF rebels led by Commander Carealan attacked two detachments of the 7th Infantry Battalion in Barangay Kabasalan, launching mortar attacks from across the river, which separates the province from Maguindanao.
The BIFF also harassed Army positions in Datu Piang, Maguindanao, forcing hundreds of civilians to flee.
Hermoso said the military would ensure the safety of civilians and condemned the BIFF for attacking civilian areas in the marshy border between Maguindanao and North Cotabato.
More checkpoints were put up in areas where the BIFF operates to prevent them from launching attacks on civilian areas in the two provinces.
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