AT LEAST 23 members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters were slain while 24 others,including an army soldier, were wounded in a battle between the terrorist group and security forces in Maguindanao Thursday morning.
The number of deaths from the BIFF could still rise after the government gained the upper hand, the military said, adding the fighting was continuing.
Capt. Arvin John Encinas, spokesperson of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division said the fighting occurred at around 6 a.m. between some 50 BIFF and soldiers of the 2nd Mechanized Infantry battalion at Sitio Lapitos, Brgy. Lower Salbu, Datu Ampatuan town.
The confrontation sparked when troops under 1 Lt. Sandag and Capt. Olunan of the 2Mech Company conducting security operations in the area were fired upon by the terror group.
Reinforcements arrived to support the troops in the initial fighting.
This prompted ground commander to send attack aircrafts to support ground troops while pounding enemy positions.
Encinas said the BIFF group, estimated at around 50 armed fighters, under commander Peni of Karialan faction, suffered 12 killed in the initial exchange of heavy fighting while an army soldier was wounded.
Of the 23 slain BIFF rebels, only three were identified as Abdulljack Usop, Samad Abdul and Kasim Samaon while the others were certain Lacoste, Palusi, Ando and Kasan. One of the wounded was Faisal Solaiman.
Encinas said MG520 attack aircraft were mobilized to finish off the BIFF group.
“The casualties from the BIFF are expected to rise as they were hit heavily by aerial and ground bombardment,” Encinas said.
Meanwhile, the AFP’s efforts to prevent and counter violent extremism in Mindanao was gaining ground with the recovery of 575 loose firearms in 2018.
Notable of these are the gains from seven municipalities in Sulu that surrendered 187 loose firearms on March 6, 2018, and other places in ZamBaSulta area which the military described as a manifestation of local government units’ cooperation in PCVE efforts of the national government.
The Western Mindanao Command reported that the municipal and barangay officials from Talipao, Parang, Omar, Indanan, Maimbung, Jolo, and Patikul, Sulu turned over nine M14 rifles, three .30 Caliber BAR rifles, nine M79 Grenade Launchers, 64 M16 rifles, three AR15 rifles, 93 M1 Garand rifles, four M203 Grenade Launchers, and two Caliber .45 pistol.
Of these, Talipao Mayor Nebukadnezar Tulawie surrendered the most with 60 high and low-powered firearms, consisting of 41 M16 rifles, three AR15 rifles, twelve M1 Garand rifles, two M79 Grenade Launchers, one Bar, and one M14 rifle.