DATU SALIBO, Maguindanao (MindaNews/06 February) – Three soldiers, including an Army captain, and two civilians were injured in clashes between government forces and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) from late Friday afternoon until Sunday.
“We suffered three injured personnel, including an Army captain but all minor injuries,” Lt. Colonel Warlito Limet, chief of the 2nd Mechanized Infantry Battalion based in Datu Saudi Ampatuan.
Captain Jimmy Amoloy, commander of the 22 Mechanized Company under Limet’s battalion, was slightly wounded on his forehead when the BIFF under alias Bungos, alias Abusaiden, Kagui Tatang and Ustadz Roman attacked his team at Sitio Dagading in Barangay Tee late Friday afternoon, Limet said.
Limet said two civilians, identified as Mammex Indiong, 30 and Tammy Musarup, 19, sustained minor injuries when their feet were hit by stray bullets.
Amoloy was brought to the 1 Mech Brigade for treatment while the workers and their equipment were relocated while troops held the line.
Citing intelligence information, the military claimed the BIFF suffered two dead, including the son of a BIFF leader, during the firefight in the villages of Tee, Butilen, Andabit and Sambolawan. This was denied by the BIFF spokesperson.
Limet said the firefight started at 4 p.m. Friday when about a dozen suspected members of the BIFF harassed soldiers securing a government-funded dredging project.
He said Army units were responding to calls for help by a private construction company contracted to do the dredging operation in Barangay Butilen in preparation for the construction of a bridge.
As our troops arrived, they were met by gunfire and rifle grenade attacks from the BIFF, he said, adding sporadic firefight ensued until Friday evening and toward Saturday dawn.
Limet said that while the soldiers were moving towards the dredging site, improvised bombs were planted by the BIFF. Army bomb experts defused them while sporadic exchange of mortars and rifle grenades continued.
“They have barret snipers targeting our troops, so we fired back,” Limet said.
Late Friday night, Col. Felicisimo Budiongan, commander of the Army’s 1stMechanized Brigade in Datu Saudi Ampatuan said they monitored reinforcements from the armed group’s side.
“Some reinforcements are coming from Shariff Aguak and we monitored from other sides. It seems they are having pintakasi now but our troops have been holding the line and we are doing ..hard defense moves,” Budiongan said.
He said their troops fired back with 105 mm howitzers.
“We monitored as of this time some of the heavy equipment were hit and firefight has now reached the nearby Barangay Tee,” said Budiongan.
A backhoe was found burned on Saturday morning.
Datu Salibo Mayor Norodin Salazar said the firefight has displaced at least 1,500 residents.
“Our people want to have this project completed because all of them will benefit from it, but how it will pursue if this is happening?” he said.
BIFF spokesperson Abu Misry Mama late Friday said they were forced to fire back as military personnel were closing in on their area.
He admitted his men were involved in the skirmishes with soldiers but denied his group is opposed to the project.
“We are here to fight for our members who were not compensated from the lands used by the construction company,” Mama said in Filipino.
He also admitted they were behind the burning of the backhoe but denied two of their members were killed. (Ferdinandh Cabrera / MindaNews)