Military intensifies offensives vs. BIFF in Cotabato town

KIDAPAWAN CITY (MindaNews / 23 Dec) — Since the unilateral ceasefire Malacanang recently declared only covers communist guerillas, the Army in North Cotabato has intensified its offensives against a faction of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) which had earlier pledged allegiance to the ISIS.

The 602nd Brigade sent at least two battalions in areas in Carmen, North Cotabato to run after the BIFF led by Abu Torayfe, according to Captain Arvin Encinas, spokesperson of the 6th Infantry Division.

Encinas said the BIFF sought refuge in their temporary camps or bases in the mountains of Carmen and in nearby Bukidnon province.

“We have studied the terrain and we already have the grid coordinates so we make sure we hit our targets,” he explained, stressing there are no more civilians in areas where BIFF members are sighted.

On Thursday, Encinas told media here that at least 11 BFF fighters were killed when they stepped up their hunt against Torayfe and his group at Barangay Tonganon, Carmen, since Monday.

Eight of them were hit during the air strikes and the rest died after Army ground troops engaged them in a running gun battle in Barangay Tonganon.

Encinas admitted, however, that they could not show proof of the supposed deaths since Muslims, when they die, are buried immediately.

On the government side, he said a member of the Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) identified as Proceso Lacuesta was killed while four soldiers sustained slight injuries during the firefight.

Meanwhile,  the 140 families that evacuated their villages when armed fighting erupted, sought temporary shelter in nearby barangays.

On Tuesday, the evacuees received relief assistance from the local government, Encinas said.

Torayfe, as described by Encinas, is a Maguindanaon Moro who arrived in North Cotabato on board a pump boat from the Ligawasan marsh and has been staying in Carmen town since early 2017.   (Malu Cadelina Manar / MindaNews)