9 killed as Army troops clash with BIFF

COTABATO CITY (MindaNews / 29 July) – Two soldiers and seven members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters were killed as clashes erupted anew in Datu Salibo, Maguindanao Wednesday, the military said.

Datu Salibo, Maguindanao. Map courtesy of Google

Lt. Col. Anhouvic “Dingdong” Atilano, spokesperson and civil-military operations commander of the 6th Infantry Division, said that Army troops belonging to the 57th Infantry Battalion were patrolling in Barangay Pendetin early this morning when they encountered heavily armed members of the ISIS-inspired BIFF.

Atilano said the soldiers were after Hassan Indal, a sub-commander of the BIFF considered a high-value target, who was sighted hiding in the area.

He said two of the operating troops – PFCs Raymond Canlog and Jovit Sarno – were slain instantly during the burst of fire that lasted the whole morning.

Twelve of the soldiers were wounded, Atilano said.

“As firefight ensued, little by little our troops faced increasing number of enemy reinforcement, prompting them to pull out from the battle area,” Atilano said.

“Intelligence report we received said the enemy also suffered around seven fatalities,” he added.

Abu Misry Mama, spokesperson of one of the factions of the BIFF, said that they monitored until this afternoon heavy air assault in the clash area.

“However, it’s not our troops that were engaged, maybe the other faction,” he said over a telephone interview.

The firefight took place as Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, Western Mindanao Command chief, was in a meeting with Bangsamoro Chief Minister Ahod Balawag Ebrahim together with officials from National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA) to discuss issues concerning the Anti-Terrorism Act and efforts in handling the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Before its approval, the Bangsamoro leadership appealed to President Rodrigo Duterte to veto the anti-terrorism bill, fearing it would lead to discrimination and abuse of Mindanaoan Muslims. (Ferdinand Cabrera / MindaNews)