Air assets of Joint Task Force Central killed another nine Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and wounded two during a series of missions in Sitio Lipao, Barangay Palanaken, Datu Piang town, Maguindanao on Thursday night.
This took place around 6 p.m. on Thursday, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesperson Brig. Gen. Joselito Kakilala said on Friday.
From Davao City, Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu of Maguindanao is calling for the suspension of the military offensive against the BIFF as the number of internally displaced persons has ballooned to over 93,000.
Kakilala added the air strikes were conducted by four MG-520 “Defender” attack helicopters after concerned civilians reported the presence of 50 armed BIFF members in the area.
The group was reportedly headed by one “Commander Torex Tasil,” Kakilala said.
The AFP spokesperson said that the MG-520s conducted three sorties against the BIFF and this resulted in the killing of nine and wounding of two as reported by military intelligence.
With this development, the number of BIFF dead is now placed at 125 with another 65 wounded.
The offensive against the group started on February 25.
Kakilala said that the continuation of the air and ground offensives against the BIFF will be determined by 6th Infantry Division commander Major Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan, the incumbent head of Joint Task Force Central.
Calls for peace
Mangudadatu said the all-out war launched by the military against the rebel group has tremendously affected the lives of civilians in 11 towns of the province since it started on February 25.
He said the war against the BIFF has been very destructive to the civilians who are now relying on the assistance of the government and donor agencies for food, medicine, and other basic needs.
“This is the reason why I am opposed to all-out war,” Mangudadatu said in an interview with 105.9 Balita FM on Friday.
Gov. Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao said the regional government would need at least need P12 million per week to sustain the food needs of the evacuees.
Mangudadatu said the province’s response to the needs of the civilians has been draining the coffers of the government. He, however, could not give the exact amount of fund released to assist the evacuees.
“The fund is draining as the affected families and individuals grow every day,” he added.
Earlier, Hataman also lamented the impact of the war to the civilians.
“I am asking the military to ensure that the rights of the civilians will be protected,” said Hataman.
The Young Moro Professionals Network-Western Mindanao (YMPN-WP) also expressed condemnation and alarm over what it called “insufferable violence” suffered by the evacuees.
Based on the records of the ARMM Humanitarian Emergency Action Response Team, around 19,075 families were forced to abandon their homes in the towns of Shariff Saydona, Mamasapano, Datu Unsay, Shariff Aguak, Datu Salibo, Saudi Ampatuan, Rajah Buayan, Talayan, Guindulungan, Talitay, Datu Anggal, and Midtimbang.