Pigcawayan clashes left 8 killed, 10 wounded

KIDAPAWAN CITY (MindaNews / 22 June) – Eight were killed while 10 others were wounded at the height of the armed clashes between government troops and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) on Wednesday, combined reports from the Cotabato Police Provincial Office (CPPO) and the Philippine Army said.

The CPPO reported two killed – Abraham Cutay, a trainee of the Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU), and Towan Dading Esmael, 61, a farmer from Barangay Malagakit.

The Army’s 602nd Infantry Brigade, on the other hand, said six BIFF members were killed.

Soldiers rush to Barangay Simsiman in Pigcawayan, North Cotabato to reinforce troops fighting the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF). Photo courtesy of VALERIE ANN P. LAMBO

Capt. Napoleon Alcarioto, 602IB spokesman, said that of those wounded, two were CAFGU members identified as Angel Berona and Resty Segundera, and the eight others were BIFF members.

Berona and Segundera suffered only minor injuries and were already released from the hospital, according to Alcarioto.

Lt. Col. Angelo Lutera, commander of the 34th Infantry Battalion, said that as of 6 p.m. Wednesday, they already occupied Malagakit Elementary School, which was used by the BIFF as base after they raided the village and nearby Barangay Simsiman, both in Pigcawayan, North Cotabato.

Despite this, Lutera said they have not yet given the displaced families the “go signal” to return to their houses due to ongoing clearing operations in the area.

Lutera, in a radio interview Thursday over the Catholic-run DXND, said they are still searching for bombs the BIFF may have planted in their attempt to prevent troopers from pursuing them in their escape.

The attackers withdrew towards the marshland in Maguindanao, he said.

Data from the local government units of Pigcawayan and Midsayap show that at least 1,762 evacuees remain in several evacuation centers as of 2 p.m. Thursday.

Pigcawayan municipal administrator Jezler Garcesa said that of the 1,370 evacuees, 736 remain at the Pigcawayan National High School, 404 at the multi-purpose hall of Barangay Central Panatan, and 230 at the covered court in Barangay Bulucaon.

Karl Ballentes, Midsayap public information officer, said at least 392 evacuees remain in evacuation centers in Barangays Palongoguen, Gayonga, and Lagumbingan. (Malu Cadelina Manar / MindaNews)