Army corporal killed, 7 soldiers hurt in clash with BIFF
CAMP SIONGCO, Maguindanao – An Army corporal was killed and seven other soldiers were wounded as fighting continued Friday between government forces and the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Maguindanao, the Army said here.
Capt. Jo-anne Petinglay, 6th Infantry Division spokesperson, said the slain Army corporal belonged to the 7th Infantry Battalion, one of the composite forces, pursuing BIFF elements in Barangay Tee in Datu Salibo Maguindanao.
She withheld the name of slain trooper in accordance with policy to inform the next of kin first.
The wounded troopers are now undergoing treatment at the Camp Siongco Hospital.
The intense fighting first broke out between Army soldiers and BIFF forces more than two weeks ago and the military now uses some 10 armored personnel carriers, 200 ground troops and two MG-attack helicopters.
Government forces were closing in on the lair of the BIFF in Barangay Tee, Petinglay said.
At 9:30 a.m. Friday, government forces started sweeping through marshland areas toward the location of BIFF forces but they were met with improvised bombs planted by the guerrillas around its position.
Petinglay could not say how many BIFF gunmen had been killed or injured during air strikes and since the start of the ground offensives.
A public school was hit by a mortar shell – which landed on its roof and into one of the classrooms – destroying chairs and facilities.
Salim Maidu, principal of the Pagatin Elementary School, said the school was hit at about 10 p.m. on Wednesday night. He could not say from which side the mortar shell came from.
He said the Army assured him it was not from the military because Army artillery fire was directed at the marshland and not on civilian areas. The school is situated beside the Datu Saudi Ampatuan to Datu Salibo highway.
“We appeal to both sides to spare our school,” Maidu told reporters.
The clashes in Datu Salibo also put on hold the construction of a flood control project there.
Abu Misri Mama, BIFF spokesperson, said since the fighting began, his group only lost one fighter while three others were wounded. He claimed 12 soldiers were killed and three tanks destroyed since the fighting started.
Petinglay said two infantry men have been killed since Feb. 5 and 12 soldiers wounded, including an Army captain.
Earlier, Petinglay appealed to the public to remain vigilant as the BIFF has brought the battle zone to civilian areas.
Four civilians, including Datu Salibo town treasurer, were killed when the BIFF set off a roadside bomb on Tuesday night. SFM