At least 11 killed as BIFF attacks Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat villages
COTABATO CITY, Philippines – At least 11 were killed, including seven civilians, when armed men belonging to the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters launched simultaneous attacks in the boundaries of Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat on Thursday dawn.
Heavily armed BIFF fighters stormed the village of Banaba, particularly in Sitio Manilong, in Datu Abdullah Sangki town in Maguindanao, triggering a three-hour fire fight between the attackers and government forces, Lt. Colonel Ricky Bunayog, 33rd Infantry Battalion commander, said.
He said the attackers were led by BIFF Commander Sukarno Sapal.
Abu Misry Mama, speaking for the BIFF, admitted his men were involved in the skirmishes – which he claimed were triggered by a land dispute.
Bunayog said while his men and several paramilitary forces were engaging the attackers in fierce fire fight, another band of 30 BIFF men attacked the nearby villages of Paitan, Sagasa and Takal in Esperanza, Sultan Kudarat. These villages serve as Sultan Kudarat’s borders with Maguindanao.
In the village of Paitan, two male farmers, aged 25 and 52, were killed when fleeing BIFF forces chanced upon them as they were tending their farms. A woman and her son were briefly held and used as human shields when elements of the 33rd IB chased the fleeing BIFF gunmen deep into the forest.
They were later released unharmed, Bunayog said.
In nearby Sitio Sabaduan, Barangay Kauran in Ampatuan town, also in Maguindanao, the BIFF killed five farmers who were last seen spraying chemicals in their farmland.
Bunayog said the farmers were told by government forces not to go to their farms due to the on-going firefight in adjacent villages. Still they proceeded to their farms before sunrise.
Quoting civilian accounts, Bunayog said the five farmers were first captured by the bandits. “They were shot point blank, one by one,” Bunayog said.
Bunayog added that 33rd IB troopers have killed four BIFF fighters and recovered high powered firearms. The bodies of the slain armed men were taken by their relatives at about noon Thursday.
Chief Inspector Alma Ladera, Datu Abdullah Sangki town police chief, said by phone that tension remained high as sporadic firing from the bandits toward Army and police positions continued until Thursday afternoon.
Ladera said several civilians in the affected sub-villages have fled to nearby communities.
Mama told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that they attacked the villages because the soldiers were protecting and arming the civilian farmers.
“We engaged the soldiers and paramilitary, they are our enemies, not the civilians,” Mama said in Filipino.
Bunayog said pursuit operations were going on as of late Thursday afternoon. SFM
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