11 killed in BIFF attack in Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat villages

DATU ABDULLAH SANGKI, Maguindanao (MindaNews/24 December) — Eleven persons were killed, seven of them farmers and four from the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) who launched simultaneous attacks in the boundary villages of Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat provinces Thursday dawn.

Lt. Col. Ricky Bunayog, commanding officer of 33rd Infantry Battalion said BIFF members led by a certain commander Sukarno Sapal first attacked their detachment in Sitio Manilong, Barangay Banaba at around 3:45 a.m., leading to a three-hour exchange of gunfire where four BIFF members were killed, he said, but their bodies were not recovered.

While the firefight was going on in Barangay Banana, other members of the BIFF also initiated separate attacks in the villages of Paitan, Sagasa and Takal in Esperanza town, Sultan Kudarat province, he said.

The three villages are close to the border in Maguindanao where the first attack was launched.

Abu Misry Mama, spokesperson of one of three factions of the BIFF claimed the seven persons they killed were not farmers but members of the paramilitary group, Civilian Armed Forces Geographic Unit (Cafgu).

He claimed responsibility for the simultaneous attacks, explaining it was part of their Jihad (struggle).

Bunayog said that in Barangay Paitan, two farmers, Gerardo Alsagar, 52, and Angelo Janelsa, 25, of Barangay Maligaya, Barangay Paitan, were killed when the rebels happened to pass by the victims’ farm. A woman and a young boy were spared but held hostage but later released as they escaped when soldiers were approaching the area.

He added that at around 5 a.m. in Sitio Sabaduan, Barangay Kauran in Ampatuan town, five farmers were killed when members of the BIFF captured them while they were about to spray chemicals in their ricefield.

He said the farmers proceeded to their rice farm despite the advice of government soldiers to cancel agricultural activities because of the ongoing tension and firefight in the nearby villages.

“They were shot one-by-one at point blank after they were captured,” Bunayog said.

The five were identified: Ramonito Estoque, 40; Empe Bocaes, 40; Mario Estonote, 40; Mark Anthony Templa, 30; Henry Tuazon, all residents of Kauran in Ampatuan, Maguindanao.

Chief Insp. Alma Almeda, chief of police of Datu Abdullah Sangki town said tensions remain high as of Thursday noon.

“Some residents have evacuated but (we have) no data yet on exact numbers,” he said, adding they remain vigilant and are closely coordinating with local officials.

Furious relatives of the seven victims flocked to Esperanza town’s funeral parlors.

Last month, a firefight ensued between the BIFF and Ilonggo settlers over a land dispute. Two members of Pulahan fighters from the Ilonggo group were killed. (Ferdinandh B. Cabrera / MindaNews)