16 killed in Sunday clashes in Maguindanao

DATU UNSAY, Maguindanao (MindaNews/30 March) – Sixteen people including four soldiers and a commander of the breakaway Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters were killed as clashes erupted anew on Sunday in Maguindanao, the Army said Monday.

The first firefight broke out between the 6th Scout Ranger Company led by Capt. Blas Alsiyao and the BIFF under sub-leader named Commander Bungos in Barangay Malangog, Datu Unsay town at around 9:30 a.m., 6th Infantry Division spokesperson Capt. Jo-ann Petinglay said in a statement.

“The Scout Rangers overran the enemy positions after about an hour of intense firefight,” Petinglay said.

Another firefight erupted at around 9:50a.m. between the BIFF led a certain Commander Bisaya and members of the 34th Infantry Battalion in Barangay Pamalian, Shariff Saydona town, she added.

“The Joint Task Force Central sent reinforcements who successfully out maneuvered the bandits, killing Commander Bisaya and two more unidentified companions who were said to be close relatives of another BIFF Commander Karialan. Twelve other bandits were also wounded in the hour-long firefight,” Petinglay said.

Two members of Joint Task Force Central were wounded in the clashes and evacuated by a military medical team, she said.

But as the ambulance carrying the wounded soldiers was approaching Barangay Elian, Datu Saudi Ampatuan town at around 1 p.m., it was ambushed by a small BIFF unit hitting the driver, she said.

Petinglay said the wounded soldiers and the medical team were rescued at around 4 p.m.

Col. Melquiades Feliciano, 601st brigade commander identified Bisaya’s alleged fellow commanders as Nords Indong alias Bhuto and his brother Salaudin Indong.

Feliciano said the BIFF rebels returned to their camps in the interior villages of Datu Unsay and Shariff Saydona towns during the unilateral suspension of military operations declared by the Army to pave the way for the graduation ceremonies of elementary and high school students in Maguindanao.

He said the Indong brothers were siblings of BIFF leader Mohaimen Indong alias Commander Kagi Karialan, now acting as the leader of the group after its founding chair Ameril Umra Kato fell seriously ill and the arrest of Mohammad Ali Tambako.

Feliciano said Bisaya was the leader of the BIFF hit squad which liquidated at least seven soldiers in the “SPMS box” in Maguindanao.

“SPMS box” refers to the adjoining towns of Shariff Aguak, Pagatin (Datu Saudi), Mamasapano and Shariff Saydona, all in Maguindanao where the BIFF operates.

“Because of the SOMO, the BIFF returned to their encampments inside the SPMS box area so we conducted security patrol in the area,” Feliciano said, adding the soldiers captured the BIFF camp in Malangog.

Army chief Lt. Gen. Hernando Irriberi was expected to arrive Monday to visit government forces. (Ferdinandh Cabrera/MindaNews)