Army kills 23 BIFF men after rebels return to Maguindanao
COTABATO CITY – Twenty-three Moro rebels, including three ranking leaders, and four soldiers were killed in fresh fighting in Datu Unsay, Maguindanao, Sunday, the Army said.
Col. Melquiades Feliciano, 601st Brigade commander, said fighting in two areas in Maguindanao erupted after members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) returned to their camp in the town of Datu Unsay.
“They took advantage of our suspended military operation (SOMO) and gathered anew in Barangay Malangob, Datu Unsay,” Feliciano said. “Our troops were on its way to the village to check on civilian reports about the BIFF presence when the clashes erupted at 9:30 a.m.”
BACKSTORY: Break in war on BIFF sought for graduation
“Apparently, they returned to Malangob village to check if the Army has captured its camp. They engaged Army Scout Rangers in fierce fighting that lasted until 3 p.m.,” Feliciano said.
The Army declared a SOMO from Thursday and was to end Sunday to allow graduation rites of students in the towns of Shariff Aguak, (Pagatin) Datu Saudi, Mamasapano and Shariff Saydona.
“They thought the SOMO will continue so the rebels, under three commanders, regrouped,” he said.
Feliciano identified the slain BIFF leaders as Abeh Salih alias Commander Bisaya, Nords Indong alias Bhuto and his brother Salaudin Indong.
Capt. Jo-ann Petinglay, 6th Infantry Division spokesperson, said Commander Bisaya was the leader of the BIFF hit squad who liquidated at least seven soldiers, including an Army major from Camp Aguinaldo, in separate occasions last year.
Commander Nords Indong was the brother of BIFF leader Kagi Karialan, while Indong Salahudin was his brother-in-law.
“They were killed along with 20 others in the Malangob, Datu Unsay, encounter,” Feliciano said. Two Army Scout rangers were killed and four others wounded.
Two other soldiers, a military ambulance driver and his aide, were killed when a small group of BIFF fighters ambushed the medical vehicle ferrying four wounded soldiers in Pamalian, Datu Shariff Saydona town, at about 10 a.m. Sunday.
“The medical team immediately fired back at the bandits and brought the wounded to a safe area,” Petinglay said.
Feliciano identified 10 of the slain BIFF rebels as Muhad Kanapia Zailon, Usop Muhaimen Udtog, Radzak Lidasan, Maulana Kayatog, Sadriz Lumenda, Malated Tebungkog, Ulama Abdulhamed, Saptula Amen, Maslamama Utiyak, and a certain Kasla.
He added the soldiers captured the camp in Malangob village.
Abu Misri Mama, speaking for the BIFF, denied his group suffered 23 dead.
“We only have one killed in action and seven wounded,” Mama told the Inquirer by phone.
He said the three commanders reported killed by the Army were alive. Mama added that his group would continue fighting the military which he called “the real terrorists.”
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.