MANILA: Government troopers killed at least 20 members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) during clearing operations in Barangay Kabasalan, Pikit, North Cotabato on Saturday, initial reports from the 602nd Infantry Brigade showed on Monday.
Unconfirmed reports cite the casualties though to be as high as 50 BIFF fighters.
Army artillery units fired at least 50 rounds of 105mm howitzer in known BIFF positions in the area. The shelling started at about 6 a.m. and ended at 1 p.m. Saturday.
Col. Noel Clement, 602nd Infantry Brigade commander, said this was the initial reports forwarded to him Monday by troopers conducting clearing operations in the area.
“We do not have the exact figures of the BIFF casualties but based on the reports that we are getting, they (BIFF) probably sustained a minimum of 20 casualties,” Clement said in Filipino.
Around 150 to 200 BIFF men were believed to be sheltering in the area plastered by Army artillery units.
Clement said that no pursuit operations are being undertaken as of this time despite reports that surviving BIFF units have splintered and now fleeing towards the direction of Sultan Sabarongis side.
The shelling is part of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Moro Islamic Liberation Front joint tactical offensive against the bandit group.
Government and MILF forces conducted operations against the BIFF in an effort to neutralize and bring peace to areas being affected by the brigands.
The MILF requested support from the military, in the form of artillery, air support, and blocking units, in its drive against the BIFF.