MAGUINDANAO: Six rebels and a soldier were killed in fierce fighting that erupted before dawn Saturday in restive Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat provinces, Army officials said. Colonel Melquiadez Feliciano, commander of the 601st Infantry Brigade, said at least 200 Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), led by Ustadz Karialan, simultaneously assaulted three army posts in the towns of President Quirino in Sultan Kudarat; and in General SK Pendatun and Sultan sa Barongis in Maguindanao, which is part of the restive Muslim autonomous region.
Feliciano identified the slain soldier as Corporal Daniel Valenzuela and the wounded as Privates First Class Gerry Gorgonio, Bryan Baylon and Joel Abellar, all members of the 33rd Infantry Battalion. The fighting, which lasted over 3 hours, forced villagers to flee their homes and sought safe refuge in nearby areas. Captain Jo-ann Petinglay, spokeswoman for the 6th Infantry Division, said more troops were deployed in the areas following the rebel attacks.
She said Maj. Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan, 6th Infantry Division commander, assured the safety of civilians and that security forces were pursuing the attackers. “We assure the public that the government forces will always be on top of the situation and will not allow the BIFF to continue their terror acts,” Petinglay quoted the commander as saying.
The BIFF, which broke away with the larger Moro Islamic Liberation Front, is fighting for an independent Muslim state in the troubled region. The MILF signed a peace agreement with Manila last year ending decades of bloody war in Mindanao.